Overview of Asthma

  • Updated December 24, 2021
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Asthma can be defined as a chronic inflammatory disease, a condition in which a person’s airways become inflamed, narrow and swell, and produce extra phlegm. During an asthma exacerbation, oxygen gets trapped in the alveolus which makes it difficult for oxygen to flow properly in and out of the lungs. When air is trapped in the airways of the lungs, it limits the effective transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide which leads to the body going through hypoxia.

The respiratory disease can also be classified as a TH2 disease, which results in activating helper T cells to aid and prevent chronic inflammatory disease. One can develop asthma over time-generally, during childhood due to genetic inheritance or environmental surroundings causing the bronchus in the lungs to become more aggravated. This struggle can lead to flare-ups in the primary and secondary bronchi.

How is Asthma Transmitted?

It is difficult to understand how asthma can be transmitted but studies dictate that asthma can be hereditary or it can be environmentally induced. Throughout studies, it has shown that the prevalent age on early signs of asthma is the ages of 7 to 8 years old with a 5.3% currency of asthma. While the parents of those children were shown at 9.0%. Children who were shown 2.0% currency of asthma have parents with no sign of asthma or atopy.

Some studies have shown that people who live in environments that tend to be heavily polluted or are highly prone to airborne pathogens are more likely to develop either asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The main difference between asthma and COPD is that asthma can flare up occasionally where COPD is developed over time and will progressively get worse depending on the individual and their environment. COPD also called the “smoker’s lung,” is oftentimes brought on by someone who has smoked for years and the damage to the lungs has taken its toll.

What Causes Asthma?

Asthma is caused by an immune system irregularity that has genetic and surrounding constituents. There are a few different causes that may trigger asthma; which in some circumstances can be fatal if not treated properly. The two defining characteristics of asthma: inflammation and over-tenderness/or hyper-reactance of the airways, both of which lead to hindrance of airflow. Asthmatics can experience difficulty breathing which is followed by asthma flare-ups.

Inhalation of harmful gases, dust, pathogens, allergens, pet dander, spores, and dead skin cells are also known to aggravate asthma exacerbation. Through these exposures that trigger a spike or gradual increase in heart rate, the bronchus is forced to work harder to move oxygen throughout the body. By excessive strain on the heart and lungs, the build-up of mucus in the bronchi lungs begins to become inflamed which leads to difficulty breathing.

How is Asthma Diagnosed?

Through organized breathing tests, doctors are able to diagnose patients with asthma based on pulmonary function tests. By listening to their breathing during spirometry, doctors can determine how well and how fast the oxygen is being moved through the lungs. When these tests are conducted, doctors hear the airways being obstructed or can feel the extra effort in pushing air out from the patient’s lungs. Another useful test is the nitric oxide test. Nitric oxide is a gas that is produced in the lungs and can be used to identify inflammation.

When the nitric oxide test is administered, the patient is required to breathe into a machine at a steady rate for approximately ten seconds. The machine then can measure the amount of nitric oxide being produced by the patient. If a doctor is not fully convinced that asthma is present within a patient, he/she can administer challenge tests. These tests are designed to trigger an asthma spasm by allowing the patient to inhale a mist called methacholine and a powder called mannitol. When inhaled before and after a lung function test, if the lung function drops during the challenge, asthma is present, and if the lungs function normally, asthma is not present.

Doctors must administer a bronchodilator to reverse these effects on asthma patients in order to bring their lung functions back to normal. Another test to see if there are conditions that may have a relation to asthma would be an x-ray. X-rays are images of the body using radiation that doctors can use to determine if there are any obstructions with the lungs; whether it be broken bones, bronchitis, heart or lung problems.

What are the Symptoms of Asthma?

Symptoms may be accompanied by (before and/or after) an asthma exacerbation. A diagnosis can be made without seeing a physician but highly recommended to lower risks of health endangerment. Some of the symptoms of asthma include tightness of the chest, difficulty breathing, trouble sleeping due to shortness of breaths, severe coughing followed by wheezing. Although many of these symptoms may vary from person to person, they do have an effect on asthmatics daily life. During an asthma exacerbation, they can experience bronchospasm, as some could have sharper pain.

The struggle to breathe during an asthma attack could lead to stress, paranoia, extreme panic, excessive sweating, and anxiety. The symptoms after an asthma attack can usually last for a few minutes (if they are treated right away) or they may last for a few hours to days. After the asthma exacerbation, the asthmatics can be left with a dry-raspy cough for a week or longer. The nervousness brought on to someone during an asthma attack can be detrimental to one’s mental health as well, as added stress on the body can weaken the immune system, leaving them more susceptible to illness.

What are the Treatments/Cures?

Asthma can affect people’s lives as they may be limited in their activities. One of the many treatments for someone who suffers from asthma is through the use of an inhaler. An inhaler is an aerosol medication that is taken orally when an asthmatic is struggling to catch their breath. The main ingredient in an inhaler is albuterol, a bronchodilator that relaxes the muscles in the airways to allow the flow of air to pass through easier. The use of a prescribed inhaler has saved several lives, as patients can find relief in just a matter of minutes after using it.

By doing deep breathing exercises, asthmatics can build up a higher tolerance and strengthen their lungs. Some children outgrow the need for an inhaler as they get older because adults tend to be less active than children. As children mature, the growth of their lungs also plays a factor in determining whether they are more prone to asthma exacerbation. There are ways to help strengthen the lungs by doing light cardiovascular activity frequently, which may lead to not needing to rely on an inhaler for activities.

However, the time period will depend on the severity of asthma the patient has. It is important to properly warm-up before partaking in physical activity. If the weather is cold outside, it may be preferred to exercise indoors, as the colder air can aggravate the lungs while one is trying to breathe. Walking, jogging, swimming, jumping rope and weight lifting are good exercises to do to introduce asthma patients to help them become more independent and less dependent on their inhaler.

What Parts of the World is Asthma Found?

Across the world, many people suffer from asthma. Among those who participated in the 2003 survey from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Children (ISAAC) children tend to have more cases of asthma than adults, as some children’s lungs become stronger as they get older. The highest occurrences of asthma were generally observed in countries such as Australasia, Europe, and North America, and in parts of Latin America.

The lowest cases of asthma were observed in the Indian subcontinent, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Mediterranean, and Northern and Eastern Europe. Over 230 million people globally are affected by asthma and struggle with breathing in some form, both minor and severe. Although the global population has increased, there has not been a drastic increase in the number of asthma cases in the world.

Other General Information

Epithelial to mesenchymal cell transition can be defined as the cells that serve as a barrier between organs and the cells that are responsible for regenerating the healing process play an important role in airway remodeling. These epithelial and mesenchymal cells cause constant inflammatory infiltration and lead to changes in the airway wall. This swelling of the air pathways causes muscular hypertrophy or the enlargement of tissue from the increase of the size of the cells. Cytokines play a critical role within the body as they are a large group of proteins that are used in the immune system. Cytokines are used to regulate the immune system, by reducing inflammation and aids in the promotion of hematopoiesis or the production of blood cells found in the bone marrow.


Overall, asthma is a disease that can inflame the bronchioles which cause difficulty breathing. Asthma can affect millions of people worldwide in different degrees of severity, and in some cases, can even be fatal if left untreated. Through the use of an inhaler, and light exercises, asthmatics can develop stronger lungs that will lead to less severe asthma attacks, however, there is no found cure that will rid the disease for good.

This respiratory disease may take hold of a person’s life and limit them to less mobility and physical strength, there are ways to find alternative methods of exercising without endangering their lives. Although others are affected by diseases that restrict their daily activity, we must not forget that which makes us human. We have the power to help, aid others and show them compassion and understanding, that the world is a much better place when we treat each other with kindness.

Cite this paper

Overview of Asthma. (2021, Dec 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/overview-of-asthma/

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