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Asthma - American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

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According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, there are roughly 34.1 million people in the United States that have been diagnosed with asthma and nearly 300 million people worldwide suffering from this disease( "American Academy of Allergy,Asthma, and Immunology"). For years, individuals suffering from asthma have relied on taking various drugs to prevent their asthma symptoms. Recently however, a medical company by the name of Asthmatx has developed the Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty System; the first non-drug treatment for asthma. With this new development, the creators of the Alair system believe that asthmatics have hope in finding a new treatment that may facilitate improvement to their quality of life by cutting down the symptoms as well as the hospital visits that may occur from their asthma ("More People Struggling with Asthma").

Many people living with asthma on a daily basis know the severity of the disease, but others may not realize what a serious illness asthma really is. The World Health Organization has reported that the incidence of asthma has been rising by fifty percent every decade. Within the last year alone in the United States there were 11 million people that suffered an asthma attack(American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology). In 2005, it was estimated that roughly 255,000 deaths were contributed to asthma (World Health Organization).Asthma was also the cause of approximately 500,000 hospitalizations every year and about 217,000 emergency room visits (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology). With the proper care and treatment, there is promise for reducing these statistics.

Before understanding how the treatment for asthma works, it is best to first understand the disease itself. When a person has asthma, there are different factors that take place and cause certain signs and symptoms to occur. In a normal lung, the bronchioles are able to act as a passageway for air to be delivered to the lungs, and there are basically no impediments preventing the bronchioles from delivering a sufficient amount of air. Though the activity of an asthmatic's lung is the same, he or she faces obstacles which make the task of the lungs more difficult. As many people know, asthma is a chronic illness affecting the lungs by narrowing and causing the bronchioles to constrict and become narrower. Once a person's airways have become constricted and narrowed, it becomes more difficult to inhale and exhale air out of the lungs, which then makes it quite arduous for the person to breathe. The muscle surrounding their airways tightens when they breathe in these certain triggers, therefore allowing less area for air to move through. These triggers can be anything from animal fur to pollen from trees to even commonly found chemicals in the household. Once a trigging stimulus is inhaled, it activates inflammatory mediators.

Mast cells, T-cells, neutrophils are a few of the cells which take part in the inflammatory response. When inflammation occurs, the walls of the bronchial tubes become thicker. The inflammatory response tries to fight off the foreign triggers that enter the body by rushing blood and cells to the affected site, which are the bronchioles. Though this is the body's way of protecting its' airways, this inflammatory process causes symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Along with constricting the bronchioles, these inhaled triggers can cause an excess in mucus production. With the increase in mucus in the airways, there is even less area for air to be delivered in the lungs. The increase of mucus production also then causes irritation of the airways, which is what causes the asthmatic to have a cough. With the inflammation and the excessive secretion production, the person with asthma has to work harder to breathe and push the air through the lungs, past the airway obstructions. As it becomes more difficult to breathe, less oxygen is able to be delivered into the body.

Exhaling then also becomes a problem as well because there is less air being removed from the body with every breath taken. In normal ventilation of the lungs, when a person breathes, fresh oxygen is coming into the body. When the person exhales, carbon dioxide is being eliminated. When a person has asthma and his or her airways are being compromised due to constriction and obstructions which are caused by the inflammation and increased mucus production, it is harder for the old air to be removed from the body as it must attempt to circumvent all of these obstacles. When a person is unable to remove all of the previously breathed in air that is in the body, it allows less area for new, fresh, oxygenated air to be delivered. The stale air then stays in the body, which prevents the carbon dioxide from being removed. An excess of carbon dioxide can cause the body to become acidotic which, as it progresses, can lead to the person to going into respiratory failure if it remains in a prolonged state of being left without proper intervention.

A person may not get tested for asthma until he or she starts experiencing symptoms. The common symptoms of asthma are coughing, wheezing, and tightness of the chest. Some of the more serious signs of asthma include cyanosis, an increased effort to breathe, which is also known as increased work of breathing, and a decrease in the level of consciousness. Ideally, a person should not wait until they have become cyanotic and have extreme difficulty breathing to seek medical help from a healthcare professional because the time to treat the patient will be limited and crucial at that point.

Once a person decides to seek medical attention, in order to medically diagnose him or she with asthma, different tests must be performed in order to distinguish it from other lung diseases. The physician or healthcare provider may begin the process of diagnosing by first getting the medical history of the patient. This includes patient cooperation in relaying information such as the symptoms he or she may have been having, the family history, if the patient has had any allergic reactions to certain stimuli, and other questions which may be pertinent in diagnosing the patient. Although the physician may suspect asthma simply based upon the thorough history obtained by the patient, further tests are required to confirm the diagnosis. The physician may then continue the diagnosing process by ordering a variety of physical exams for an absolute diagnosis.

A common method to be able to diagnose a person as an asthmatic is by having the patient engage in a series of lung function tests. A few of these tests involved in the lung function tests include spirometry, the exhaled nitric test, and the challenge test. With spirometry, the doctor can measure the amount of air a person can exhale from his or her lungs while also



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