This is a disease that causes the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.
Asthma is caused by inflammation (swelling) in the airways. When an asthma attack occurs, the lining of the air passages swells and the muscles surrounding the airways become tight. This reduces the amount of air that can pass through the airway.
The changes that take place in the lungs of people with asthma make the airways (the “breathing tubes,” or bronchi and the smaller bronchioles) hyper-reactive to many different types of stimuli that do not affect healthy lungs. In an asthma attack, the muscle tissues in the walls of the bronchi go into spasm, and the cells lining the airways swell and secrete mucus into the air spaces. These two actions cause the bronchi to become narrowed (bronchoconstriction). As a result, a person with asthma has to make a much greater effort to breathe.
Researchers believe it results from several factors. Genes appear to be involved. Environmental factors also play a role. These factors are called “triggers.” An asthma attack occurs when you come in contact with these triggers. Most people with asthma have allergies, which are also triggers. Not all people have the same triggers.
Common asthma triggers include: tobacco smoke, dust mites, cockroaches, pets, outdoor air pollution, mold, smoke from burning wood or grass and infections. Many other things can make asthma worse, including exercise, food additives, food preservatives, fragrances, medicines and emotions.
Asthma attacks can last for minutes to days, and can become dangerous if the airflow is severely blocked.
Symptoms include cough with or without sputum (phlegm) production, pulling in of the skin between the ribs when breathing (intercostal retractions), shortness of breath that gets worse with exercise or activity, or wheezing.
Other symptoms could need prompt medical help. These symptoms include: bluish color to the lips and face, decreased level of alertness, such as severe drowsiness or confusion, during an asthma attack, extreme difficulty in breathing, rapid pulse, severe anxiety due to shortness of breath and sweating.
Early diagnosis is the key to managing asthma. To know more about Asthma Diagnosis and Treatments, be on the look out for the next post on Asthma.