Asthma is currently the most widespread and long-term condition affecting most children while still at their tender ages. Statistics show that out of every fifteen children picked at random, one of them is most likely to be an asthma patient. The figures do not deviate so much even among adults. In North America for instance, more than five percent of adults are victims of asthma. Current demographic facts reveal that nearly one million Canadians in addition to fifteen million North Americans have been diagnosed with asthma.
New infections of asthma have also been reported to be on the rise. This has led to more patients being admitted to hospitals. It is estimated that asthma cases have gone up by at least thirty percent in the last two decades. Unfortunately, the mortality rate of asthma has almost doubled even with revolution and technological growth in the healthcare sector. In this paper, both the intrinsic and extrinsic causes of asthma are discussed. The biology behind asthma as well as its effects on other body systems is also elaborated.
Definition and Overview
Asthma is a long-term condition in which the bronchial tubes are inflamed, which then results in constriction of the tubes that allow air passage (Massoud, 2008). This leads to hindered breathing and the patient finds it difficult to breathe with ease. Once the air passage tubes have been narrowed, it is cumbersome to reverse them back to normal even with proper diagnosis and treatment. In other words, the condition may be permanent. The inflamed tubes may also develop allergies to certain allergens (Massoud, 2008). The airways may equally become sensitive and extremely reactive to allergic conditions. There is a possibility of every human being suffering from bronchial hyperreactivity. However, asthmatic patients have a higher chance of developing bronchial hyperreactivity than others.
The extent to which asthma affects people is different from one individual to another. It is dependent on how these individuals are sensitive to the surrounding “triggers”. This is the main consideration put in mind in the diagnosis and treatment of Asthma. This condition can affect any person within any age bracket. However, most cases have been diagnosed right from a tender age. Children are at a higher risk than adults of contracting asthma. Their immune system is still weak and in some cases, the disease is merely inherited from biological parents or within the family tree. Risk factors like allergies and allergic skin conditions also raise the possibility of an asthma attack (Waldron, 2007). Moreover, more boys are diagnosed with asthma than their female counterparts. On a controversial note, however, more female adults stand a higher probability of asthma attack than adult males. Scientists are still not explicit about how gender and age are related to asthma. It is imperative to note that majority of people with asthma usually develop allergies (Peter, 2005). A small number of people contract asthma owing to blatant exposure to aerosols from industrial plants.
Causes of Asthma
There are two main and general causes of asthma. The severity of asthma is dependant on the nature of its cause. According to Massoud (2008), environment plays a key role in the cause and development of asthma. Beyond human control is the genetic factor whereby asthma can be passed on from parents to offspring. Scientists believe that there might be other causes of this breathing which have not been discovered yet. Beneath the genetic and environmental causes, the passage plays a crucial role in being extra sensitive in identifying the possible threats entering the lungs and thereby narrowing down to protect the lungs. Waldron (2007) has argued that environmental triggers consider our body defense system as a real enemy. For instance, dust particles and other airborne pollutants are very significant in aggravating asthma conditions. If these pollutants would be alleviated, then severe asthma cases would also reduce.
Transmissible genes within a family tree as far as the cause of asthma is concerned cannot be avoided hence patients are only advised to keep off risk factors within their surroundings. Some of the environmental triggers include smoke from tobacco and poor quality of air due to pollution or extra ozone levels. Recent data reveal a very close link between childhood asthma and polluted air, especially from automobiles. The research statistics show that the aggravation of asthma among children is mainly due to external pollution from dirty air. Cesarean sections and asthma are also related in the sense that about twenty percent of babies born from Caesarean section have a higher prevalence of asthma than those delivered normally. It is being suggested that this is due to bacterial exposure during the Caesarean section which interferes with the normal body defense. In a vaginal birth, the bacteria do not interfere with the immune system hence lowering the chances of an infant developing asthma.
In the study of genes, nearly one hundred genes are linked with asthma. Medical experts, however, still believe that several studies need to be conducted to ascertain genetic connection to asthma to discard any doubt of chances in the earlier studies. Most of these genes attached to asthma are believed to interfere with the immune. Once the system has been modified or simply weakened, the victim is more likely left at the mercy of an asthma attack (Peter, 2005). Nevertheless, more conclusive research studies need to be carried out to identify the specific gene types that are associated with asthma. In addition to separate genetic and environmental causes of asthma, these two factors can also interact and degenerate into the third cause of asthma. There are research suggestions that it is possible for certain genes to combine with environmental factors and cause or aggravate asthma. For instance, the CD14 genes and endotoxin exposure (Peter, 2005) are good examples of gene-environment fusion linked to asthma. Endotoxin can originate from farm waste, animals like dogs, and smoke fumes from tobacco.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of asthma are quite distinct. For example, coughing related to asthma is severe at night making it difficult for the patient to secure some slumber. During normal breathing, an asthma patient wheezes (Peter, 2005). This sound is like that of a whistle and is usually associated with difficulty in breathing; the patient struggles to inhale and exhale air. The chest becomes rigid and “heavy”. Patients will often complain of feeling to be carrying a heavy load right on their chests. Besides, incomplete breaths are a characteristic of asthma. Inability to breathe fully as if there is an insufficient supply of air in the lungs is common among asthmatic people.
Meanwhile, not all individuals portraying these symptoms are asthmatic. Similarly, not all asthmatic people will have these signs and symptoms. There should be a shrewd way of diagnosing asthma in order to alleviate the possibilities of wrong treatment or therapy. One medical test procedure that can be done on suspected asthma patients is referred to as a lung function test (Levy, Weller, & Hilton, 2006). This detailed examination together with the past medical records of the person alongside the persistent nature of the perceived symptoms should be used. Extreme asthmatic symptoms can threaten life and therefore necessary therapies and treatment should be advanced in due time. Thorough and appropriate treatment can substantially reduce the severe effects of asthma.
Effects of Asthma
There are a number of illnesses linked to asthma which has led to more patient visits to hospitals as well as increased admissions in healthcare facilities. Medical estimates show that over ten million patients pay regular visits to hospitals while nearly half a million others are in-patients (Levy, Weller, & Hilton, 2006). As a result, millions of working days are wasted translating to billions of dollars unaccounted for. The related medical expenses are equally incredible. In the United States alone, nearly fourteen billion dollars were spent on asthma related complications in 1996 (Murray et al. 2007). Other countries have also witnessed huge medical spending due to the increasing prevalence rate of asthma.
The long term effects of asthma are even deadly. The lungs become weak with persistent coughing. Over time, other breathing related complications can also be diagnosed. This may raise the probability of a patient contracting other infections which may be cumbersome to treat. A case in point is pneumonia which is usually very acute upon attack. A patient might die within a short period of time if not attended to urgently.
Treatment and Control
Asthma is a chronic disease with no known permanent remedy. Nevertheless, the objective behind asthma treatment is indeed taking control and preventive measures. Symptomatic treatment of asthma includes preventing severe coughing episodes and incomplete breaths. Most people prefer quick reliever in controlling asthma. However, it is not appropriate to do so. In addition to this, the working of the lung should be monitored regularly (Waldron, 2007). This can be achieved by working normally and avoiding extreme or hyperactivity. Patients are also advised to be close to their doctors to help manage the condition. Besides these measures, asthmatic people have the responsibility of playing an active role in keeping off all risk factors like allergies and endotoxins. In the case of prescribed medicines, the patient should follow prescription rules.
Asthma is treated with both long and short term medications (Waldron, 2007). The quick relief type for symptomatic treatment should not be taken regularly because the immune system may be weakened and become susceptible to other attacks.
Asthma is a chronic condition that leads to inflammation of the bronchial tubes. The air passage is constricted (becomes narrow). As a result, the patient experience episodes of short breaths as if there is less air supply in the lungs.
All age groups can develop asthmatic conditions. Nevertheless, research studies show that asthma prevalence rate in boys is higher than in girls while at the same time there are more female adults who are asthmatic than males. Asthma can be caused by two major factors namely environmental allergies and genetics. In some cases, the environmental-gene interaction has been suggested as another cause. There are several tale-tell signs and symptoms of asthma. People with asthma experience persistent coughing especially at night and early in the morning. Their chest becomes tight and they cannot breathe well. Even as they breathe, a squeaky sound can be heard from their chest. Asthma has no cure. Rather, it can be treated by controlling the symptoms and risk factors like allergies and endotoxiins.
Levy, M; Weller, T; and Hilton, S. (2006). Asthma: At Your Fingertips; 4th Ed. London: Class Publishing
Massoud, M. (2008). Allergy and Asthma: Practical Diagnosis and Management. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional
Murray, L. et al. (2007). Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine (7th ed.). Oxford University Press
Peter, G. (2005). Monitoring Asthma: Lung Biology in Health and Disease; V. 207 Boca Raton: CRC Press
Waldron, J. (2007). Asthma Care in the Community. Chichester, England, Hoboken, NJ John Wiley & Sons Ltd. (UK)