March 21, 2011
Anatomy & Physiology II
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects more than twenty two million people in the United States, with more than six million of them being children. Asthma inflames and constricts airways, which are the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When these airways are inflamed and constricted the result is shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. Airways that are inflamed are extremely sensitive and tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances. The chain reaction of muscles tightening around the airways, inflammation, and increased mucus production typically result in asthma symptoms. Asthma is a serious disease that without proper diagnosis, management and treatment could be fatal.
According to the National Health Institute, the exact cause of asthma is still not known. Researchers think that some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause asthma. Some genetic factors that are believed to play a role in asthma are an inherited tendency to develop allergies, or atopy, and having parents with an asthma diagnosis. While there appears to be a genetic link, environmental factors play an important role in asthma as well.
Viral infections in infants appear to have a role in the development of asthma. Most babies will experience wheezing due to a viral infection at some point, but not all will develop asthma. The common viruses that cause wheezing are RSV, Parainfluenza Virus, and Rhinovirus, also known as the common cold. Research states that it is unclear about the exact role the viral infection plays in the development of asthma, but statistics show that they are related.
Another theory that researchers have suggested as a possible cause of asthma is the “hygiene hypothesis”. This theory correlates the western lifestyle and it’s focus on hygiene and sanitation, with better living conditions and an overall decline of childhood infections.... [continues]
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