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What Part of the Respiratory System is Affected by Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects 10’s of thousands of people across the world. Although it isn’t curable it is controllable. ‘Asthma’ is the Greek word for pant or to breath hard. The Greek’s named it ‘asthma’ because of the wheezing sound which is diagnostic of the condition.

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that arises from allergies or allergic responses in the lungs and is characterized by sudden attacks of laboured breathing, chest constriction and coughing. So what part of the respiratory system does asthma affect?

Diagram of the Lung and HeartThe respiratory system supports the oxygen needs of the body by taking in air, removing the oxygen at the level of the alveoli (air sacs) and delivering the oxygen to the blood, which then transports the life supporting oxygen around the body. This is a continual system. The air is exchanged constantly – not just when you take air in. There are thousands of tiny air sacs that store the air and oxygen for use. The air is exchanged with each pass of the blood through the pulmonary system.

During an asthmatic event the muscles surrounding the air tubules (bronchioles) constrict. This constriction doesn’t allow the air in the alveoli (air sacs) to be released and the lungs become over inflated. This over inflation forces the sufferer to cough in an attempt to get rid of the trapped air. If coughing doesn’t relieve the situation, or if the swelling and constriction becomes more severe, the sufferer begins to use their accessory breathing muscles. This causes the shoulders to hunch over and rise with each breath.

What part of the respiratory system does asthma affect when the asthma sufferer is wheezing? The wheezing sound that is common to asthmatics is caused by the contraction of the bronchioles as the air passes through tubes that are almost completely blocked.

During an asthmatic attack mediators from mast cells are released that causes the airway muscles to contract, which increases the mucus production and narrows the airways. This causes white blood cells to flood the area that keeps the attack going. This constriction of the airway, and the air forced through those tiny paths, is what causes the wheezing sound that can be heard either audibly or through a stethoscope.

What part of the respiratory system does asthma affect before an asthmatic attack? Triggers for the physical changes are varied and many. They range from environmental allergens, occupational chemicals, weather changes, cold, scented items such as deodorants and perfumes. Some asthmatics are induced by exercise.

The respiratory system is a complicated organ system that supports the body by delivering oxygen at the cellular level to help heal and provide life support. Taking care of the respiratory system helps to improve your health and take care of you.