What's bronchial asthma?
Bronchial asthma is a disease caused by increased responsiveness of the tracheobronchial tree to various stimuli. The result is paroxysmal constriction of the bronchial airways. Bronchial asthma is the more correct name for the common form of asthma. The term 'bronchial' is used to differentiate it from 'cardiac' asthma, which is a separate condition that is caused
by heart failure. Although the two types of asthma have similar symptoms, including wheezing (a whistling sound in the chest) and shortness of breath, they have quite different causes.
Bronchial asthma is a disease of the lungs in which an obstructive ventilation disturbance of the respiratory passages evokes a feeling of shortness of breath. The cause is a sharply elevated resistance to airflow in the airways. Despite its most strenuous efforts, the respiratory musculature is unable to provide sufficient gas exchange. The result is a characteristic asthma attack, with spasms of the bronchial musculature, edematous swelling of the bronchial wall and increased mucus secretion. In the initial stage, the patient can be totally symptom-free for long periods of time in the intervals between the attacks. As the disease progresses, increased mucus is secreted between attacks as well, which in part builds up in the airways and can then lead to secondary bacterial infections. Bronchial asthma is usually intrinsic (no cause can be demonstrated), but is occasionally caused by a specific allergy (such as allergy to mold, dander, dust). Although most individuals with asthma will have some positive allergy tests, the allergy is not necessarily the cause of the asthma symptoms.
Symptoms can occur spontaneously or can be triggered by respiratory infections, exercise, cold air, tobacco smoke or other pollutants, stress or anxiety, or by food allergies or drug allergies. The muscles of the bronchial tree become tight and the lining of the air passages become swollen, reducing airflow and producing the wheezing sound. Mucus production is increased.
Typically, the individual usually breathes relatively normally, and will have periodic attacks of wheezing. Asthma attacks can last minutes to days, and can become dangerous if the airflow becomes severely restricted. Asthma affects 1 in 20 of the overall population, but the incidence is 1 in 10 in children. Asthma can develop at any age, but some children seem to outgrow the illness. Risk factors include self or family history of eczema, allergies or family history of asthma. Bronchial asthma causes cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Bronchial asthma is an allergic condition, in which the airways (bronchi) are hyper-reactive and constrict abnormally when exposed to allergens, cold or exercise.
Treatment is aimed at avoiding known allergens and controlling symptoms through medication. A variety of medications for treatment of asthma are available. People with mild asthma (infrequent attacks) may use inhalers on an as-needed basis. Persons with significant asthma (symptoms occur at least every week) should be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, preferably inhaled corticosteroids, and then with bronchodilators such as inhaled Alupent or Vanceril. Acute severe asthma may require hospitalization, oxygen, and intravenous medications.
Decrease or control exposure to known allergens by staying away from cigarette smoke, removing animals from bedrooms or entire houses, and avoiding foods that cause symptoms. Allergy desensitization is rarely successful in reducing symptoms.
More information on asthma
What is asthma? - Asthma is a chronic inflammatory respiratory disease characterized by periodic attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, and a tight feeling in the chest.
What types of asthma are there? - Types of asthma include child-onset asthma, adult-onset asthma, exercise-induced asthma, cough-variant asthma, occupational asthma, nocturnal asthma.
What's bronchial asthma? - Bronchial asthma is a disease of the lungs in which an obstructive ventilation disturbance of the respiratory passages evokes a feeling of shortness of breath.
What is exercise-induced asthma? - Exercise-induced asthma is a form of asthma that some people have during or after physical activity. Exercise-induced asthma is common.
What is adult-onset asthma? - Adult onset asthma generally is the onset of asthma for the first time in someone of middle age or older. Adult-onset asthma develops after age 20.
What is status asthmaticus? - Status asthmaticus is a severe asthma episode that does not respond to standard treatment. Status asthmaticus is caused by severe bronchospasm.
What causes asthma? - Asthma is caused by inhaling an allergen that sets off the chain of biochemical and tissue changes leading to airway inflammation, bronchoconstriction, and wheezing.
What're the asthma triggers? - Many risk factors have been linked to triggering asthma attacks. There are two basic types of asthma triggers, allergic triggers, non-allergic triggers.
Asthma and allergy - Asthma attacks (worsening of asthma symptoms) can be triggered by allergies. Allergy is the leading cause of asthma.
What is an asthma attack? - An asthma attack occurs when the small and medium-sized airways become inflamed and constricted after being exposed to a trigger.
Asthma in children - Asthma is the most common chronic condition of childhood. Asthma symptoms can interfere with many school activities for children.
Asthma and pregnancy - During pregnancy, asthma or asthma episodes will become worse for an estimated one-third of pregnant women, particularly women who have severe asthma.
Asthma in adults and older people - Identifying asthma in the elderly can be difficult because asthma symptoms can be confused with symptoms of heart or lung diseases.
What're the complications of asthma? - Uncontrolled asthma in pregnant women puts them at higher risk for complications that can include early labor, hypertension, gestational diabetes.
What are the symptoms of asthma? - The symptoms of asthma include labored breathing, constriction of the chest, coughing and gasping usually brought on by allergies.
What're the warning signs of asthma? - Most people with asthma have warning signs before symptoms appear. There are many warning signs of an asthma episode.
How is asthma diagnosed? - The diagnosis of asthma is made on the basis of typical symptoms and signs. Positive allergy tests support a diagnosis of asthma.
What're the treatments for asthma? - Treatment of asthma is aimed at avoiding known allergens and respiratory irritants and controlling symptoms and airway inflammation through medication.
What quick relief (rescue) medications cure asthma? - Short-acting beta-agonists are the most commonly used asthma rescue medications. Anticholinergics are another class of asthma drugs.
Long-term asthma control medications - Combinations of steroids and other medications are effective for both treating and preventing asthma attacks in patients with moderate to severe asthma.
What're asthma inhalers? - Most asthma drugs are inhaled using special devices or nebulizers. Two common types include dry powder asthma inhalers and metered-dose asthma inhalers.
What're asthma nebulizers? - Asthma nebulizers can be used with all classes of inhaled medications but are most commonly used with short-acting beta2 agonists and ipratropium bromide.
How to control acute asthma attacks? - Acute asthma is an acute exacerbation of wheezing, unresponsive to usually effective therapy and necessitating care in an emergency room or hospital ward.
How to manage chronic asthma symptoms? - The aims of management are to recognize asthma, to abolish symptoms, to restore normal or best possible long term airway function.
What asthma relievers are available? - Asthma reliever is a drug that provides relief from asthma symptoms and is the most commonly used asthma medication.
What asthma preventers are available? - Asthma preventers are to be used twice a day regardless of whether your child has symptoms of asthma.
What's the treatment for childhood asthma? - The goals of asthma therapy are to prevent child from having chronic and troublesome symptoms, to maintain child's lung function.
What's the treatment for asthma in the elderly? - Diagnosis and treatment of asthma can be more complicated in people age 65 and older than in those who are younger.
What can be done to prevent asthma? - Avoiding known allergens and respiratory irritants can reduce asthma symptoms. People with asthma should minimize risk for respiratory tract infections.