Essay on Asthma

1127 Words5 Pages
Asthma is a disorder of the respiratory system in which the passages that enable air to pass into and out of the lungs periodically narrow, causing coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. This narrowing is typically temporary and reversible, but in severe attacks, asthma may result in death. Asthma most commonly refers to bronchial asthma, an inflammation of the airways, but the term is also used to refer to cardiac asthma, which develops when fluid builds up in the lungs as a complication of heart failure. This article focuses on bronchial asthma. More than 17 million Americans suffer from asthma, with nearly 5 million cases occurring in children under age 18. In the United States, asthma causes nearly 5,500 deaths each year. Asthma…show more content…
Asthma Attacks Asthma attacks occur when the bronchi and bronchioles become inflamed, reducing the space through which air can travel through the lungs. This causes the asthmatic to work harder to move air in and out of the lungs. Asthma attacks usually begin with mild chest pressure and a dry cough. As an attack intensifies, wheezing develops and increases in pitch; breathing becomes difficult; and coughing produces thick, stringy mucus. As the airway inflammation prevents some of the oxygen-rich air from reaching the alveoli, the cells of the body start to burn oxygen at a higher rate, actually increasing the body’s demand for oxygen. The frequency of asthma attacks varies considerably among asthma suffers. Some people have daily attacks, while others can go months or even years without having an attack. Inflammation of the airway occurs when an irritant—such as pet hair or cigarette smoke—comes into contact with the airway walls. Upon detecting the irritant as a harmful invader, the body’s immune system sends special cells known as mast cells to the site of irritation, in this case the airway walls. The mast cells release histamine, a chemical that causes swelling and redness in a process called the inflammatory response. Histamine also causes bronchospasms, in which the muscles lining the airway walls contract repeatedly, causing the airways to narrow even more. In addition, cells that lubricate the airways with mucus—called

More about Essay on Asthma

Open Document