What is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs and the airways that deliver air to the lungs. Asthma causes periodic attacks of wheezing and difficult breathing. Periodic attacks are caused by an over sensitivity of the lungs and airways, which overreact to certain "triggers" and become inflamed and clogged.
Asthma is Greek for "panting". Asthmatics pant during an asthma attack because their air passages, which start in the throat and end in the lungs, become narrowed and sometimes almost completely obstructed.
Asthma is very common. Asthma is called a Reactive Airway Disease.
When does Asthma Develop?
Asthma can develop at any age. An asthma attack occurs when the airways become inflamed in response to a trigger, such as dust, mold, pets, exercise, or cold weather. However, some attacks start for no apparent reason. Triggers may inflame the airways to the lungs, allowing disease-fighting cells to accumulate and causing swelling in the lungs. In addition, the airways may become blocked or obstructed when the muscles surrounding the lungs tighten or go into spasm. Spasms keeps air from circulating freely in the lungs. Mucus may also cause an asthma attack. Mucus may clog and narrow the airways in the lungs, making breathing even more difficult.
Symptoms of Asthma
The most obvious signs of an asthma attack are cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and tachypnea (fast breathing). During an asthma attack, the airways of the lung undergo a number of changes, including Inflammation, bronchospasm, and increased mucus production.
Triggers of Asthma
Triggers irritate the airways and result in bronchoconstriction (constriction of the air passages in the lungs). Triggers do not cause inflammation and therefore do not cause asthma. Symptoms and constriction of vessels in the lungs caused by triggers tend to be immediate, short-lived, and rapidly reversible. Air passages will react more quickly to triggers if inflammation is already present in the airways. Common triggers of constriction of the air passages include everyday stimuli such as: Cold air, Dust, Strong fumes, Exercise, Inhaled irritants, Emotional upsets and Smoke.
Smoke acts as a very strong trigger. Second-hand smoke has been shown to aggravate asthma symptoms, especially in children. The effects of one cigarette lingers for 7 days. Asthma attacks can be mild, moderate, or severe, and can last for a few minutes, a few hours, or several days. Attacks can occur anywhere and at any time. Many attacks occur at night. Sometimes, there are warning signs that an attack is about to happen, but sometimes there aren't.
What causes Asthma?
Asthma has been identified as an atopic disease. This is the result of certain inherited genetic features that cause the immune system to respond to otherwise innocuous proteins as if they were dangerous invaders.
Can Asthma be Cured?
Currently, asthma is not curable, but it can be well-managed.
What does an asthma attack feel like?
An asthma episode feels similar to taking deep breaths of very cold air on a winter day. Breathing becomes harder and may hurt, and there may be coughing. Breathing often makes a wheezing or whistling sound. These whistling and wheezing occurs because the airways of the lungs are getting narrower.
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