One of the most important functions of the respiratory system is to breathe. Air is inhaled through the mouth or nose, it then moves through the pharynx, larynx and trachea into the lungs. After that process, the air is exhaled through the same pathway. During normal inhalation the external intercostal muscles and diaphragm contract and as a result of this the rib cage elevates. Due to this the volume of the lungs increases, air pressure drops so air rushes in. On the other hand during normal exhalation the muscles relax, lungs become smaller, air pressure rises and air is expelled.
Asthma is a lung disease which narrows and inflames the air ways, we have tubes which they carry air into our lungs. When a person is diagnosed with asthma these tubes are inflamed. This inflammation makes the airways terribly swollen and sensitive. Due to this the inflammation starts reacting to certain substances that enter the airway. Once the airway starts reacting to these substances our muscles tighten up, as a result of this the airways are narrowed so less air enters to the lungs. Asthma has an impact on other body systems, these are the immune system, the nervous system and the respiratory system.
Starting off with the first system, the respiratory system of a person with asthma is more sensitive to environmental irritants than of a normal person. When there is contact with an environmental irritant, automatically the airway narrows making it more difficult to breathe. Second system, the immune system, our immune system helps our body to fight germs. When a person is diagnosed with asthma, his immune system is more sensitive to substances that are not harmful to those who do not have asthma. The last system that I am going to explain is the nervous system.
According to John Hopkins University “research indicates that asthma affects your nervous system, a nerve growth factor a nervous system protein, has been found to increase sensitivity to irritants among people suffering from asthma and allergies”. (Apryl Bevelery: 2014) In this paragraph I am going to mention and explain some asthma symptoms starting off with the first symptom wheezing. Wheezing is one of the most common symptoms, wheezing is a squeaky noise which is normally heard while the person is sleeping. Wheezing can be heard more during this period because the airway normally narrows during respiration.
Wheezing happens because there is a narrowing or obstruction from the level of the larynx to the small bronchi. According to studies, wheezing is said to happen by oscillations and vibrations of the airway walls. This sound is formed when air passes through a narrowed portion of the airway, then air passes with high velocity producing a decrease in gas pressure which later on it is flown in the constricted region. Once it arrives in the internal airway the pressure begins to increase which will be barely able to reopen the airway lumen.
A second symptom coughing, a person diagnosed with asthma can suffer from coughs during an asthmatic attack, one can think that coughs are painful but it is a natural reflex which protects our lungs. This happens by clearing foreign substances that our body does not want. This process starts by, when an unwanted substance enters, our nerves sends an electric impulse to the brain to tell our muscles in our chest and abdomen to contract against these substances. When the nerve endings of our airways become irritated coughs usually occurs.
After this contraction it will release large amounts of air and high amount of strength to eject these substances. There are different types of coughs namely chronic and acute. Chronic cough means that the cough will stay longer, most probably this is due to a medical condition. While acute cough means that the cough happens only at that moment. The last symptom that I am going to mention is chest tightness and shortness of breath, these are also common symptoms. A patient who is not diagnosed with asthma has a clear bronchiole wall, this wall will be relaxed and provides an open airway.
On the other hand a patient with asthma will be very sensitive to irritants, as a result of this when an irritant occurs most probably it will inflame this wall. A list of these irritants can be smoke, stress, dust mites, infections and many more. Due to these problems such as releasing leukotrienes, result of this an inflammation may occur which unfortunately will lead to overproduction of mucus. Overproduction of the mucus will result in constriction in the bronchiole making it difficult for air to move in the lungs. As a result of this an asthmatic attack can occur.
There are specific factors which may result in triggering asthma, starting off with the first factor which is environmental. Nowadays we live in an environment which has a high amount of pollutants such as, flower scents, mould, pests, dust mites, tobacco, animal dander, car pollution, extreme weather and many more. There are certain factors that we can control especially those that we can find indoors. Those that are found indoors can be controlled in order to avoid asthma triggers, an example of this can be cleaning weekly, keeping pets out of rooms, removing carpets, servicing the air conditioners and vacuuming.
Second factor can be allergies, unfortunately an allergic reaction can be similar or the same in order to trigger an asthma attack. According to studies being overweight will result in more chronic low-grade systemic inflammation, which means that the patient will suffer from inflammation throughout the body. Last factor that I am going to explain is smoking, this can affect an asthmatic person because when a person inhales tobacco, irritations substances will lay out in the moist lining on the airways. These irritants can trigger an asthma attack.
Nowadays thanks to scientists we are developing more and more tests in order to be able to diagnose diseases in their early stages. Starting off with the first test spirometry, this test is often used to assess the patient’s lungs. The procedure of this test is to take deep breathes and exhaling it as fast as they can through a mouthpiece attached to this equipment. This test consists of two measurements, these are the volume of air breathed in and the volume of air breathed out. Normally this test is done many times to get accurate results. Second test peak expiratory flow test, this test is done by a device called peak flow meter.
This is a very easy test, it measures how fast the patient can blow air out of his/her lungs in only one breathe. Most of the time this test occurs over weeks, in fact the patient needs to take this device home so she/he can record daily measurements. The patient needs to take this device with him or her because asthma can be vary due to changes in our lungs throughout the day. Third test airway responsiveness, this is a difficult test in fact this test occurs only if there are no clear symptoms of asthma. The airway responsiveness test measures how the airway reacts when it is contacted with a trigger.
During this test the patient is asked to breathe in medication, which will eventually irritate the airways and possibly trigger a mild asthma attack. Another test that can be done is testing airway inflammation, this test can be done by two different methods. The first method is to take a phlegm sample and the second method is while the patient is breathing out, the level of the nitric oxide is measured. An allergy test can also be done in order to confirm if the person’s asthma is associated with any allergies. Imaging tests are also an alternative, these can be a CT-scan or a chest x-ray of the patient nose cavities and lungs.
With these scans they can identify any abnormalities related to asthma. The last test that I am going to mention is the sputum eosinophils, the main role of this test is to look for white blood cells while the patient is coughing. The white blood cells are present when symptoms occurs which later on are visible when they are stained with eosin. Fortunately there are certain treatments that help prevent and control asthma, starting off with the first treatment inhaled corticosteroids are preferred methods for long-term control of asthma.
The main function of this treatment is to relieve inflammation and swelling, reducing inflammation helps to prevent asthma attacks. Another treatment which is given during an asthma attack is cromolyn, this medicine is given when the patient is using the nebulizer. Once the patient breathes in, the nebulizer will send medicine to the lungs to prevent airway inflammation. Omalizumab is a medicine given as an injection one or two times a month, this medicine helps to prevent our body from reacting to asthma triggers. Inhaled long-acting beta2-agonist and theophylline are all medicines that open the airways.
The leukotriene modifiers are a medicine take orally, this helps to prevent increase of inflammation. Then there is the quick-relief medicine these are called inhaled short-acting beta2-agonisits these act quickly in order to relax tight muscle, this allows to open airways so air can flow through them. A patient who is diagnosed with asthma needs to have frequent check-ups, it is also very important to remove any items which can trigger asthma such as rugs or animals. It is also recommended to record your symptoms in a diary to see how well the treatment is controlling your asthma.
Good control of asthma will prevent coughing and shortness of breath, reduce the use of quick relief medicine, help to maintain good lung function, prevent asthma attacks and let the person maintain the normal activity of sleeping throughout the night. It is also very important to use proper asthma medications as like with other medications they have side effects. When a person starts having these symptoms it is very important to do a check-up or talk to someone else because if these signs are not treated asthma triggers can worsen which even in some cases can be fatal.