Asthma Term Paper

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Asthma is a disease involving a type of breathlessness. In

the late 1980's, about ten million people in the U.S.

suffered from asthma. Asthma related deaths in the U.S.

increased forty percent between 1982 and 1995 for unknown

reasons.

Asthma attacks are caused by a partial blocking of the

small bronchial tubes in the lungs. This blocking results

from a contraction of the bronchial muscles, swelling of

the mucous membranes that line these muscles, and the

production of phlegm, a thick mucus. The most common kind

of asthma, allergic bronchial asthma, is caused by a

specific allergic reaction. Most of the time, the allergy

is caused by ordinary substances, such as dust, pollens,

certain foods, fur, chemical irritants, mold, air

pollution, and tobacco smoke. Also, many asthmatics are

allergic to aspirin. Asthma is also sometimes associated

with hay fever, which is also a allergy. Attacks of asthma

often follow periods of emotional strain or heavy exertion.

A infection of the nose and throat can accelerate the

start of an attack. Also, a sudden change in the weather

may bring on a asthma attack. Asthma may occur seasonally

if the air contains specific pollens, but most asthmatics

have attacks periodically throughout the year.

The symptoms of asthma are that the patient complains

frequently of a feeling of tightness in the chest. The

patient also has a hacking cough and shortness of breath.

Phlegm, a thick mucus, develops in the lungs, and the

cough get more intense. The patient may feel better

temporarily after coughing up the phlegm. The length of

time of asthma is throughout the patient's lifetime

because asthma is a chronic disease, but asthma can be

treated and controlled. Asthma affects a asthmatic person

in sudden, sharp attacks that occur periodically.

A doctor diagnoses asthma by obtaining a full allergy

history of the patient, a physical examination of the

patient, and by executing allergy skin tests on the

patient. Doctors can prescribe the drugs aminophylline,

cromolyn, and ephedrine to relieve the symptoms of asthma.

Epinephrine or beta-2 agonists are sometimes used to

control asthma attacks. Steroid therapy is often necessary

for patients who have severe cases of asthma. A doctor may

also hyposensitize the patient to the numerous substances

that induce asthma. The treatment consists of small

injections at regular intervals of a preparation made from

the substances the patient is allergic to. The doctor

slowly increases the strength of the injections until the

patient's body has built up a resistance to the allergy

producing substances.

There is no recovery from asthma because there are no

cures for asthma and because asthma is a chronic disease,

meaning that it persists throughout a person's lifetime.

A person can prevent asthma by avoiding allergy causing

substances or treatment with the drugs theophylline,

which is ordinarily taken in tablets, and cromolyn sodium,

which is inhaled.

Asthma is a very serious chronic disease, but it can be

controlled.

Bibliography:

1. Simpson, Carolyn. Everything You Need To Know About

Asthma. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1998

2. Encarta Encyclopedia - Bronchial Asthma

3. World Book 1998 Encyclopedia - Asthma

4. Pocket Guide For Asthma Management And Prevention -

http://www.ginasthma.com/POCKET/pocket.html

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