Chronic Disease Affecting Your Airways
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs.
If you have asthma you are not alone. In the United States, asthma affects 14 to 15 million people. Today, 10 million adults have asthma. Asthma, also known as reactive airway disease, is defined as a chronic lung condition with:
- Inflammation (swelling) of the airways
- Increased sensitivity of the airways to a variety of things that make asthma worse
- Obstruction of airflow
Swelling of the Airways
If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways are swollen. The inflammation makes the airways very sensitive, and they tend to react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When the airways react, they get narrower, and less air flows through to your lung tissue.
symptoms like wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing, especially at night and in the early morning.
Asthma cannot be cured, but most people with asthma can
control it so that they have few and infrequent symptoms and can live active lives.
When your asthma
symptoms become worse than usual, it is called an asthma episode or attack. During an asthma attack, muscles around the airways tighten up, making the airways narrower so less air flows through. Inflammation increases, and the airways become more swollen and even narrower. Cells in the airways may also make more mucus than usual. This extra mucus also narrows the airways. These changes make it harder to breathe.