Overview of Asthma
Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects approximately 8% of the U.S. population, with over 7 million children diagnosed. In childhood, asthma is more common among boys, with a male-to-female ratio of two to one until puberty when it affects both sexes equally. The majority of those diagnosed who are over 40 years of age, however are females.
While asthma cannot be cured, it is controllable with proper diagnosis, effective management, and adequate care. People who follow treatment guidelines have fewer and less harsh attacks. However, without treatment, an attack can result in hospitalization or even death.
Pathophysiology of Asthma
With this chronic lung problem, asthma, the bronchioles (breathing passages of the lungs) become inflamed. This occurs due to “triggers” which are things that irritate the lining of the bronchioles and lead to the production of histamine. This table explains the cause and effect that occurs during an asthma attack.
Cause and Effect of Asthma
External and internal factors trigger inflammation Airway passages begin to swell and fill with mucus
Muscle contraction of the airways occur called bronchospasm Further airway narrowing
Narrowed airway passages Difficulty exhaling air
Resistance of exhalation occurs Asthma symptoms
Asthma Symptoms and Signs
To correctly diagnose asthma, the doctor follows certain guidelines and criteria. Usually, a patient will have episodic symptoms of airflow obstruction that is partially reversible. The signs and symptoms of asthma include:
• Chest tightness
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
Common tests used to diagnose asthma are spirometry with postbronchodilator response, pulse oximetry measurement, and chest x-ray. Irritants and environmental exposures lead to symptom exacerbations, so patients often have to undergo skin testing to evaluated sensitivity to perennial indoor and outdoor allergens. Triggers include pet dander, cockroaches, dust mites, mold, and pollen.
Factors That Contribute to Asthma
Triggers vary from person to person. Common triggers cause an attack for most people with asthma. However, there are some triggers that lead to symptoms for some people while others remain unaffected. These triggers include:
• Environmental allergens
• Certain drugs (aspirin, NSAIDs)
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease
• Viral respiratory infections
• Chronic sinusitis
• Occupational exposure
• Smoke and pollution
• Exposure to dry, cold weather
• Excitement and/or stress
• Inhalation of perfumes or cleaning agents
• Ingesting sulfites (food and beverage additive)
Researchers Find that Bacteria Causes Asthma Attacks
Recently, researchers in Copenhagen discovered that bacterial infections could be a factor in acute asthma attacks, particularly in children. Doctors have known that viral and bacterial infections bring on these attacks, but they now believe that treatable illnesses are the culprit. The Bisgarrd and colleagues (2010) at the Danish Pediatric Asthma Center examined over 350 children under that age of three years to evaluate what microorganism was to blame for the high numbers of asthma attacks in this age group. They found that bacterial pathogens exacerbate asthma symptoms even when the child does not have an active infection due to that microorganism. These investigators suggest that children with asthma could benefit from treatment with antibiotics.
This year, a research team led by Dr Galanter of USSF found that exposure during infancy to nitrogen dioxide is associated with the occurrence of childhood asthma among Latinos and African Americans. The investigators studied over 4,000 participants, the largest clinical trial of its kind to date. They found that there is a 17% increased risk of developing asthma later in life when children are exposed during the first 12 months of life. Because minorities tend to live in high pollution areas, they tend to have higher incidences of this chronic condition. The geographic diversity of the study was said to add to the credibility of the results, with five major cities in the U.S. represented.
If you think you or someone you love has asthma, call the Patient’s Choice Medical Center for an evaluation and treatment. The number is (702) 474 – 6300. An initial visit is only $60, an affordable option for people without health insurance. Because asthma is a condition that is manageable with proper medications, start breathing better with help from board certified Las Vegas doctors.