Asthma as a disease, its symptoms and causes

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory tract, the prevalence of which throughout the world has increased dramatically in recent years (Braman 2006), and in which periods of difficulty in breathing occur due to narrowing of the lower respiratory tract. The narrowing of the airways is partial or complete, either on its own or with treatment. It is believed that many people do not really know that they have asthma, and therefore they do not receive proper treatment. At the same time, in most patients with asthma with the help of treatment it is possible to achieve complete control over the disease, and thus maintain the quality of life and performance. 

Air movement in the airways

Air movement in the body begins through the nose or mouth. If you inhale, the air moves into the lungs through the trachea and pulmonary tubes (bronchi). The bronchi end in small bubble-like formations (alveoli), where there is an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. From the alveoli, oxygen is absorbed into the blood, and the carbon dioxide formed in the body passes from the blood to the alveoli. At the exit, air, together with carbon dioxide, is removed from the lungs. Normally, when breathing, all airways are open and air moves through them freely and unhindered.

What happens in the airways for asthma?

In asthma, inflammation occurs in the airways, they are irritated and narrowed, and air movement in them is difficult. This is due to asthmatic inflammation, which creates swelling in the mucosa and an increase in mucus secretion. Inflammation of the mucosa and the narrowing of the bronchi caused by it is a protective reaction against various external stimuli. In asthma, the airways are more sensitive than usual, and easily respond to various irritants. Narrowing of the airways can be caused, for example, by irritating odors, cold weather, severe stress, and contact with animals or pollen.

The main symptoms of asthma are:

  • feeling of suffocation
  • lack of air (which can also occur at night)
  • wheezing and wheezing, especially when exhaling deeply
  • cough that occurs more often during the night and / or early morning
  • tension or heaviness in the chest (Sistek et al, 2006).

Symptoms of asthma can occur in a milder or more severe form, and last from several hours to several days if you do not diagnose asthma and treat the symptoms. An asthma attack is a condition where all the symptoms of asthma – respiratory failure, wheezing, coughing, lack of air and a feeling of heaviness in the chest – develop very quickly. The manifestation of symptoms (especially for the first time) can cause a feeling of fear, suspense, helplessness. There may be several reasons for starting an asthma attack: excessive exercise, various environmental factors, stress, or contact with allergens.

What are the causes of asthma?

In Estonia, 5-8% of the adult population or 70 000-112 000 people suffer from asthma (Merenet al 2005). The incidence of asthma in adults contributes to both genetic (unchanged) risk factors and environmental risk factors (variable). Asthma, manifested in adulthood, most often occurs in women. The following factors affect asthma:

  • a genetic predisposition, which is greater in those people whose relatives are already sick / sick with asthma, allergic rhinitis and atopic dermatitis.
  • early childhood infections of the respiratory tract that can contribute to asthma
  • contact with allergens in the environment, as well as chemicals used at home and at work (Tarlo et al 2008).
  • smoking and being overweight (Lim et al 2010).
Important to remember:An important risk factor is a genetic predisposition – if relatives have already had cases of asthma.Refuse all types of tobacco products (cigarettes, electronic cigarette, chewing tobacco, hookah, cigarillo, pipe tobacco, cigars), as well as passive smoking.If you decide to quit smoking, ask your family doctor for advice, he will be able to refer you to an ex-smokers support office. Alcohol consumption should be moderate.Watch your weight. If you change your eating or dietary habits, consult your doctor.Do not forget to move! Every day should include at least a little physical activity.
event_note April 9, 2020

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