The Latest in Asthma Thinking

Inflammation and Asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that inflames and narrows the large and small airways of the lungs making it difficult to breathe.1 When you breathe, air enters the lungs through the large airways before moving into the small airways.2 While inflammation is usually a defense mechanism for the body, it can be harmful if it occurs at the wrong time or lingers.3 When the inner linings of the small and large airways become inflamed, there is less room for air to move through.2 When the inner linings of the small and large airways become inflamed, they can become constricted and blocked with mucous. As a result, there is less room for air to move through.3

Airway inflammation can cause people with asthma to have persistent symptoms of coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. They may also experience a flare-up or asthma "attack."4

While asthma is commonly known to affect the large airways, many recent studies have shown how inflammation of the small airways contributes to asthma symptoms.5If a long-term control medicine does not reach or treat both the large and small airways, underlying chronic inflammation may persist.6,7


Asthma inflammation is not just contained to the large central airways, but also extends to the small peripheral airways Small airway inflammation in an adult subject with fatal asthma compared to an adult control subject with no lung inflammation Asthma inflammation is not just contained to the large central airways, but also extends to the small peripheral airways Small airway inflammation in an adult subject with fatal asthma compared to an adult control subject with no lung inflammation

Incidence of Asthma

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), asthma affects approximately 25 million Americans and is one of the most common long-term diseases of children. However, many adults suffer from asthma too.9

Genetics play a role in asthma as well. When you talk with your doctor, he or she may ask if anyone else in your family suffers from asthma. A child is more likely to be diagnosed with asthma if one or both parents have asthma.4

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for asthma, but it can be controlled with regular monitoring, proper treatment and by avoiding "asthma triggers."10 It's important to work closely with your doctor to regularly assess control and determine appropriate treatment options as symptoms and disease severity vary for each person.

References
  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. What is Asthma? Available at: http://aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&cont=5. Accessed on September 7, 2012.
  2. The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook. Respiratory System. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/lung_and_airway_disorders/biology_of_the_lungs_and_airways/respiratory_system.html. Accessed on September 7, 2012.
  3. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. So you Have Asthma. Available at: http://www.nhibl.nih.gov/health/public/lung/asthma/have_asthma.pdf. Accessed September11,2012.
  4. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. What Causes Asthma? Available at: http://aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&cont=6. Accessed on September 7, 2012.
  5. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. The small airways in asthma-silent no longer. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/global/latest-research-summaries/Current-JACI-Research/small-airways-in-asthma-silent-no-longer.aspx. Accessed on September 7, 2012.
  6. Leach CL, Davidson PJ, Hasselquist BE, Boudreau RJ Lung desposition of hydrofluoroalkane-134a beclomethasone is greater than that of chlorofluorocarbon fluticasone and chlorofluorocarbon beclomethasone: a cross-over stufy in health volunteers. Chest. 2002:122:510-516
  7. Gelfand EW, Kraft M. The importance and features of the distal airways in children and adults. J. Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Dec;124(6 Suppl):S84-7.
  8. Mauad T, Silvia LFF, Santos MA, et al. Abnormal alveolar attachments with decreased eliastic fiber content in distal lung in fatal asthma. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2004:170(8):857-862
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma in the U.S. Growing Every Year. May 2011. Available at: http://www.odc.gov/VitalSigns/Asthma/index.html. Accessed on September 11,2012.
  10. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Asthma. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/asthma.aspx. Accessed on September 7,2012.
  11. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma Overview. Available at: http://www.aafa.org/. Accessed September 11, 2012.
  12. The American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Who Gets Asthma? Available at: http://www.acaai.org/allergist/asthma/Pages/what_causes_asthma.aspx. Accessed on September 7, 2012.
  13. Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America. Prevention. Available at: http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&cont=9. Accessed September 11, 2012.
  14. Shi Y, Aledia AS, Tatavoosian AV, et al. Relating small airways to asthma control by using impulse ocillometry in children. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011:1-8.