Asthma affected 300 million individuals worldwide in 2009 and has caused the deaths of 250,000 people worldwide in 2010. As a chronic inflammatory disease, it affects the breathing airways and is characterized by recurring symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath caused by enhanced bronchospasms. Physicians diagnose this chronic inflammatory disease based upon the symptoms exhibited by patients and their responses to various forms of treatment over a period of time. It is a chronic inflammatory disease that involves a variety of cells and cellular elements. Clinicians classify asthma patients to have either atopic or extrinsic asthma or non-atopic or intrinsic asthma. This classification is conducted based on the frequency of symptoms, the FEV1 or the forced expiratory volume in 1 second and the peak expiratory flow rate. This chronic inflammatory disease is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some patients are born with the condition; others develop the condition as a response to extensive contact with allergens or irritants. These irritants may be found in nature, such as pollen or dust, or they may be foreign substances such as asbestos. Despite the number of deaths associated with it, it is a condition that can be controlled using proper asthma treatment and therapy, and the prognosis for asthma patients is usually quite good.
Asthma affects the breathing airways and results in limited airflow throughout the tracheobronchial tree. Thischronic inflammatory disease results in airway hypersensitivity that causes recurring experiences of wheezing and coughing. This blocks the normal flow of air into and out of the lungs, which can cause shortness of breath and chest tightness. These symptoms, along with coughing or wheezing, are some of the most common symptoms of this chronic inflammatory disease, but can occur in conjunction with other conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease. Due to the restrictions to proper airflow, patients can also suffer from sleep disorders. These symptoms occur more often during the early morning or at night, when the body responds to exercise or cold, dry air. Some patients experience symptoms only when triggered by allergens, while some patients contend with frequent airflow obstruction. When these symptoms worsen, it is then classified as an asthmatic attack. Some of the more severe attacks require emergency medical care, since the tightening of the airways prevents oxygen from getting to vital organs and can lead to death.
Asthma treatment aims to prevent severe asthma attacks, improve overall airflow and restore the proper functionality of the respiratory system. If not treated in a timely manner, asthma can lead to other respiratory problems. It is a chronic inflammatory disease, but it is reversible given the proper asthma treatment which manages the condition and helps patients live normal and healthy lives. However, if the patient does not receive the proper asthma treatment, the condition may become irreversible. Asthma treatment plans are generally two-pronged: the prescription of medication that meets the needs of the patients and finding ways to reduce exposure to allergens that cause attacks. Patients are advised to avoid the allergens or irritants that trigger their attacks. This also means avoiding irritants such as cigarette smoke and pets. In terms of medication, doctors generally prescribe inhaled short-acting beta-2 agonists such as salbutamol to manage the acute symptoms of this chronic inflammatory disease, like coughing and wheezing. In case of an attack, bronchodilators can widen air passages and increase airflow to the lungs. For more recurrent episodes, asthma treatment can also include the inhalation of corticosteroids, which are considered more effective than leukotriene antagonists in suppressing the inflammation.