Asthma is a very common disorder with an estimated four to five percent of the population being affected. It is perhaps the only common treatable condition that is increasing in terms of prevalence, severity and mortality, especially in children.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways. In susceptible individuals this inflammation causes recurrent episodes of coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficult breathing. Inflammation makes the airways sensitive to stimuli such as, chemical irritant, tobacco smoke, cold air, or exercise. When exposed to these stimuli, the airways may become swollen, constricted, filled with mucus, and hypersensitive to stimuli.
The inflammation causes associated increase in existing airway hyper responsiveness to variety of cold air and virus. Exposure of patients to these stimuli provokes a variety of changes in airways including broncho constriction, airway oedema, chronic mucus plug formation and airway remodelling. The recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing experienced by patient with asthma, particularly at night and in early morning, is usually associated with airflow obstruction.
Asthma attacks all age groups but often starts in childhood. It is a disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person. In an individual, they may occur from hour to hour and day.
This condition is due to inflammation of the air passages in the lungs and affects the sensitivity of the nerve endings in the airways so they become easily irritated. In an attack, the lining of the passages swell causing the airways to narrow and reducing the flow of air in and out of the lungs.
Asthma, technically called bronchial asthma, is a disease of the bronchial tubes that lead from the windpipe, or trachea, into the lungs. The bronchial tubes ordinarily do not furnish any marked resistance to the entrance or exit of air. However, in asthmatic attacks, the bronchial tubes tend to close down, causing asthmatic wheezing. In severe attack, the sufferer seems almost to be suffocating. He apparently uses all his strength just trying to breathe. He becomes pale and bluish and often perspires. Fortunately, most attacks are mild and do not last long. Many of them can be prevented or stopped by medical treatment.
Bronchial asthma is a chronic illness marked by these attacks. In severe cases, the bronchial tubes become swollen and ofter greater resistance to treatment. Plugs of clinging mucus may form in the tubes and cause chronic irritation and coughing. They are dislodged and brought up as sputum. If the attacks are frequent, prolonged, and severe, the lung tissue is damaged. This puts a strain on the heart. The average case of asthma is mild and more of a recurrent nuisance than a threat to health. It is always essential to get and follow competent medical advice, especially in the cases of young persons, before asthma can damage the heart or lungs.
The resulting airflow limitation is reversible, either spontaneously or with treatment; when asthma therapy is adequate, inflammation can be reduced over the long term, symptoms can usually be controlled, and most asthma related problems prevented.
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