World Asthma Day, which takes place on May 5 in 2021, is organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma to raise awareness for asthma worldwide. This year’s theme is “Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions”. We take this opportunity to start a mini-series about the condition. This and the following posts are based on our patient booklet Fast Facts for Patients and their Supporters: Asthma.
Five Facts about Asthma
- Asthma is a chronic (long-term) condition in which your airways become inflamed and swollen, often with too much mucus production. This reduces the amount of air flowing in and out of your lungs.
- Asthma is common in children, but you can develop it at any age.
- The main symptoms of asthma are wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. These symptoms may occur day to day, with episodes of sudden worsening, often after exposure to a “trigger” such as pollen, pet fur, exercise or changes in the weather.
- It is important to be in control of your asthma. Uncontrolled asthma can be extremely debilitating; a severe attack can lead to death.
- Asthma is not a curable disease but there are many successful treatments that control the symptoms, even if you have difficult-to-control or severe asthma.
Understanding Your Airways
Asthma affects breathing tubes (airways) called bronchioles and bronchi that run from your windpipe to your lungs. These airways supply air to tiny fragile sacs called alveoli.
The airways are complicated structures made up of several layers. Each tube is lined by cells that have fine hairs (cilia) that keep the airway clean.
In asthma, the airways become narrower because:
- the muscle around the airways tightens
- the lining of the airways become inflamed and swollen
- mucus builds up in the airway.
In addition, air gets trapped in the alveoli, stopping the proper exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
As a result, it becomes more difficult to breathe in and out, and you will experience symptoms such as chest tightness, wheezing or coughing.
Bronchi are the large airways that connect your windpipe to your lungs. Bronchioles are smaller airways in the lungs that branch from the bronchi. Alveoli are the tiny air-filled sacs at the end of the bronchi where gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) move between the lungs and the blood.
Please check out the previous and the next post of our series here:
Information based on Fast Facts for Patients and their Supporters: Asthma (Karger, 2020).