Author Topic: What is asthma?  (Read 206 times)

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Offline ruben

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What is asthma?
« on: February 12, 2009, 06:56:27 PM »

Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes (airways) that causes swelling and narrowing (constriction) of the airways. The result is difficulty breathing. The bronchial narrowing is usually either totally or at least partially reversible with treatments.

Bronchial tubes that are chronically inflamed may become overly sensitive to allergens (specific triggers) or irritants (nonspecific triggers). The airways may become "twitchy" and remain in a state of heightened sensitivity. This is called "bronchial hyperreactivity" (BHR). It is likely that there is a spectrum of bronchial hyperreactivity in all individuals. However, it is clear that asthmatics and allergic individuals (without apparent asthma) have a greater degree of bronchial hyperreactivity than nonasthmatic and nonallergic people. In sensitive individuals, the bronchial tubes are more likely to swell and constrict when exposed to triggers such as allergens, tobacco smoke, or exercise.

Typical symptoms and signs of asthma

All of the symptoms mentioned below can be present in other respiratory, and sometimes, in heart conditions. This potential confusion makes identifying the settings in which the symptoms occur and diagnostic testing very important in recognizing this disorder.

The four major recognized symptoms:

Shortness of breath: especially with exertion or at night

Wheezing: a whistling or hissing sound when breathing out

Coughing: may be chronic, is usually worse at night and early morning, and may occur after exercise or when exposed to cold, dry air

Chest tightness: may occur with or without the above symptoms

What medications are used in the treatment of asthma?

In the treatment of asthma, inhaled medications are generally preferred over tablet or liquid medicines, which are swallowed (oral medications). Inhaled medications act directly on the airway surface and airway muscles where the asthma problems initiate. Absorption of inhaled medications into the rest of the body is minimal. Inhaled medications include beta-2 agonists, anticholinergics, corticosteroids, and cromolyn sodium. Oral medications include aminophylline, leukotriene antagonists, beta-2 agonists, and corticosteroid tablets.

Historically, one of the first medications used for asthma was adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline has a rapid onset of action in opening the airways (bronchodilation). Unfortunately, adrenaline has many side effects, including rapid heart rate, headache, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, and a sense of panic.

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« Last Edit: April 04, 2009, 10:35:59 PM by ruben »

What is asthma?
« on: February 12, 2009, 06:56:27 PM »
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