Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Know about Asthma


The word asthma has originated from an ancient Greek word meaning panting. Essentially asthma is a chronic and recurring inflammation of the air ways (bronchi) that results in obstruction of air flow. Asthma is very common all over the world, in all age groups. It may start in as early as months old baby to elder age group. Asthma is largely controllable and to an extent curable, depending on the stage and extent of the disease.

What happens in Asthma? (Pathogenesis)
There is a decrease in the lumen of the air ways resulting from a two fold response to the allergens and other irritants.

Primarily in a hyper reactive response, the smooth muscles in the airways constrict and narrow excessively. Followed by an inflammatory response where the immune system responds to the allergens by sending white blood cells and other immune factors to the airways. These inflammatory factors cause a swelling of the airways and also an increase in the mucus secretion thus causing symptoms like wheezing, cough and shortness of breath.

Children aged 2-12 years reported higher rates of asthma (15.7%) than adults aged 16 years and over (10.1%). In males, the prevalence of asthma was highest among children aged 2-12 years; in females, prevalence was highest among young adults aged 16-24 years. Asthma is also closely linked to allergies. Most, but not all, people with asthma have allergies. Children with a family history of allergy and asthma are more likely to have asthma.

Symptoms of asthma:

The most common symptoms are

  1. Cough

  2. Difficulty in breathing

  3. Mucus production

  4. Exhaustion

The most important and distressing symptom is the breathlessness or sense of suffocation, which may be of varying intensity. Some patients may not have cough or mucus production (expectoration) at all.

The symptoms of asthma may be

  1. Periodical (once in a a week to once in a year)
  2. Seasonal (a few weeks in a year)

  3. Continuous (all throughout or most of the time)

The symptoms might get triggered by one or more of the following:

a. Physical exertion

b. Change in weather or temperature

c. Infection

d. Mental stress

e. Exposure to pollution (dust, chemical, pollen, etc.)

f. Without any apparent reason

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