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Anatomy & Physiology I - Asthma Disease

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April 10, 2017

Anatomy & Physiology I

Professor McGovern


Asthma is a disease that occurs in the lungs by inflaming and narrowing the airways (Asthma, 2014). The airways are important because they are tubes that allow air to flow in and out of your lungs. If your airways are inflamed and swollen, it’ll become more difficult for the air to flow. The narrower your airways become, the harder it’ll be to breathe. According to WebMD, there are four main types of asthma: Exercise-induced, Cough-variant, Occupational, and Nocturnal. Exercise-induced asthma is only triggered by exercise or physical exertion (Types of Asthma, 2016). Cough-variant asthma is when a severe cough is the strongest symptom (Types of Asthma, 2016). Occupational asthma is triggered by the workplace (Types of Asthma, 2016). Lastly, nocturnal asthma occurs because the chances of having symptoms is higher while you are sleeping (Types of Asthma, 2016). Asthma can also be triggered by allergies, which is the most commonly diagnosed cause of asthma. When someone’s allergies are provoked, their immune system attacks the allergens, and the allergy symptoms begin to pop up, which can also cause asthma symptoms to occur (Faris, 2016).

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 24 million Americans have asthma: 7.4 percent being adults, and 8.6 percent being children. The statistics have been continuously increasing throughout the years in all aspects. Asthma is the leading chronic disease in children, and is more common in young boys than young girls. However, it is more common in adult females than adult men (Asthma Facts and Figures, 2015). The statistics for asthma seem to be worse for African-Americans than any other race. They are three times more likely to die from it, and African-American children have recently had a big increase in asthma (Asthma Facts and Figures, 2015).


There are many things that cause asthma and provoke the symptoms. Allergens, such as dust mites and animal fur, are one of the main causes of asthma. It is said that 25 percent of people who have allergies, also have asthma (Crosta, 2007). Tobacco smoke causes a higher risk of asthma, as well as a higher risk of death due to asthma. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to get asthma (Crosta, 2007). Outdoor factors, like cold temperature and humid weather, can trigger asthmatic symptoms. Cloudy weather causes shortness of breath, and cold temperatures lead to congestion (Crosta, 2007).  People who are obese are twice as likely to get asthma, and stress has been linked to higher asthma rates. Genes may also play a role in the cause of asthma. The studies haven’t been consistent, but it is said that 3/5 asthma cases are hereditary (Crosta, 2007).


There aren’t many symptoms related to asthma. The most common ones are coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness/pain (Asthma Symptoms, 2016). Not everyone gets the same symptoms, and some only get one out of the four. It really depends on the type of asthma you have. I have exercise-induced asthma, so the only symptoms I get are wheezing and shortness of breath, which only occur when I’m at basketball practice or at a game. The same symptoms occur for me when it’s cold outside. However, I know some people who have severe asthma, and they’ve had to use an air mask because it’s so much harder for them to catch a breath. Early symptoms of asthma include frequent coughing, losing your breath easily, feeling very tired during exercise, wheezing/coughing after exercise, changes in lung function, signs of a cold or allergies, and trouble sleeping (Asthma Symptoms, 2016). Someone with these symptoms should consider getting asthma medication, like an inhaler. The symptoms of an asthma attack are severe wheezing, nonstop coughing, very rapid breathing, chest pain, tightened neck and chest muscles, difficulty talking, feelings of anxiety or panic, pale/sweaty face, and blue lips or fingernails (Asthma Symptoms, 2016). It’s important to treat these symptoms immediately because these symptoms can increase rapidly.

Diagnostic Testing

When testing for asthma, the first thing a doctor does is give you a physical exam to make sure there isn’t anything else wrong with you. They’ll ask you questions about your symptoms and any other health problems. They might also have to take one of two lung function tests: spirometry or peak flow. A spirometry test estimates the narrowing of your bronchial tubes by checking how much hair you can exhale after a deep breath and how fast you can breathe out (Asthma: Tests and diagnosis, 2016). A peak flow test uses a meter to measure how hard you can breathe out. If the measurement is low, then your lungs aren’t working very well (Asthma: Tests and diagnosis, 2016). Many other tests can also be taken to check for asthma. There is a methacholine challenge, a nitric oxide test, imaging tests, allergy testing, the sputum eosinophils test, and other tests for exercise and cold-induced asthma (Asthma: Tests and diagnosis, 2016).

Asthma is classified in four different categories: mild intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, and severe persistent. The doctor will use your symptoms and test results to determine the type of asthma you have. Mild intermittent asthma is when you have mild symptoms up to two days a week and two nights a month (Asthma: Tests and diagnosis, 2016). Mild persistent asthma is when you have symptoms more than twice a week, but no more than once a day (Asthma: Tests and diagnosis, 2016). Moderate persistent asthma is having symptoms once a day and more than one night a week (Asthma: Tests and diagnosis, 2016). Severe persistent asthma is having symptoms throughout the day on most days and frequently at night (Asthma: Tests and diagnosis, 2016).



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