What is Asthma Anyways?

By: mikeherman1
Asthma (pronounced AZ-muh) is a chronic (long term) inflammatory disease that makes the bronchial airways particularly sensitive to irritants such as air pollution. It affects people of all ages causing breathing difficulties, shortness of breath and wheezing.

It is the leading chronic illness in children and is becoming increasingly common in the developed world and is now the most common chronic condition in the west.

Asthma sufferers are often described as "being allergic to modern life" as air pollution, processed foods and centrally heated, double-glazed houses (an ideal breeding ground for house dust mites) are thought to be major contributing factors.

Asthma can affect anyone, at any age, anywhere and about one in eight children and one in thirteen adults have asthma in the western world, and rates are on the increase.

Although there is no cure, it can be controlled or managed in most patients so that they have only minimal and infrequent symptoms and can live an active life.

Asthma attacks
Asthma suffererers have extra sensitive or hyper-responsive airways that narrow due to a mixture of factors. The muscles around the air passages in the lungs can contract and at the same time the airway lining can become inflamed and swell. This results in narrowing the airways that can get further blocked by the secretion of excess mucus.

This is described as an asthma attack with symptoms including a feeling of tightness in the chest, a wheezing or whistling noise when breathing, coughing, breathlessness and difficulty breathing.

This feeling of fighting for every breath is one that some asthmatics describe as being a sensation similar to drowning.

Asthma attacks vary not only between patients but for the same patient from a slight tightness or breathlessness to a severe attack when the airways can close so much that not enough oxygen reaches the vital organs causing a life threatening medical emergency.

Managing the disease
If you have asthma, then learning to self-manage it becomes an important part of your life. This may mean restricting exposure to things that trigger your attacks and taking medicines as directed by your doctor.

By controlling your asthma every day, you can prevent serious symptoms and take part in all normal activities and reduce the time lost at school or work.

Anyone with asthma should seek long term medical help as a doctor will not only prescribe the necessary medication but also monitor its effectiveness.

This is important as asthma is a chronic or long term illness and the effectiveness of medication can decrease over time and symptoms can return.

Drugs that resemble natural hormones help fight asthma.
Adrenaline (epinephrine in the USA) based drugs act as relievers to provide almost instant relief from symptoms and hydrocortisone (a steroid) is the base for longer term drugs that try and reduce the sensitivity of an asthmatics airways, thereby reducing the chances of an attack.

Asthma can change progressively during the lifetime of a patient affecting them in very different ways.

Some patients suffer acute episodes but then enjoy long periods with few symptoms.

Others may have childhood asthma and then grow out of it only for it to return in later life.

At a Glance ... What is Asthma All About?

? Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that makes airways (bronchial tubes) particularly sensitive to irritants such as pollution, and this is characterized by difficulty in breathing.

? If untreated, asthma can be a life-threatening disease.

? Asthma affects people of all ages and is the leading chronic illness of children.

? While asthma cannot be cured it can be controlled, reducing the frequency and severity of attacks.

? If you have asthma, managing it is an important part of your life as taking medicines and reducing contact with things that bother you can cut down time lost at work or school.
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