Asthma Attack: The "Heat" is On | Medical News and Health Information
Asthma Attack: The "Heat" is On -- Research Summary
BACKGROUND: Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. It causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. The inflammation can be trigged by a number of internal and external factors, but the exact cause is not known. The airways then swell and fill with mucus, making it difficult to breathe. Because asthma causes resistance, or obstruction, to exhaled air, it is called an obstructive lung disease.
Asthma is one of the most common and most costly diseases in the world, and presently, it has no cure. More than 20 million American have asthma, and managing asthma costs as much as $18 billion each year. In the U.S. each year, asthma attacks result in almost 10 million outpatient visits and 2 million emergency room visits. It also accounts for 500,000 hospitalizations and 4,000 deaths each year.
TREATMENTS: Treatments for asthma can be divided into long-term control and quick-relief medications. There are two major groups of medications used in controlling asthma: anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators. Anti-inflammatories reduce the number of inflammatory cells in the airways and prevent blood vessels from leaking fluid into the airway tissues. Bronchodilators work by increasing the diameter of the air passages and easing the flow of gases to and from the lungs. Regular follow-up visits (at least every six months) are important to maintain asthma control and to reassess medication requirements.
Bronchial thermoplasty is the first device-based asthma treatment approved by the FDA. It's performed through the working channel of a standard flexible bronchoscope that is passed through a patient's nose or mouth, into their lungs. The tip of the small catheter is expanded to contract the walls of targeted airways. The thermal energy is then delivered to the airway walls to reduce the presence of excess airway smooth muscle that narrows the airways in patients with asthma. By decreasing the ability of the airways to constrict, this new treatment has been shown to help patients with severe asthma gain substantially better control over their disease.
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