Asthma is a clinical syndrome of chronic airway inflammation characterized by recurrent, reversible, airway obstruction. Airway inflammation also leads to airway hyperreactivity, which causes airways to narrow in response to various stimuli.
Who is at risk to develop asthma?
Asthma is a common chronic condition, affecting 68 per thousand individuals in most recent asthma surveys. Asthma remains a leading cause of missed workdays. It is responsible for 1.5 million emergency department visits annually and up to 500,000 hospitalizations. Over 3,300 Americans die annually from asthma. Furthermore, as is the case with other allergic conditions, such as eczema (atopic dermatitis), hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and food allergies, the prevalence of asthma appears to be on the rise.
Asthma and Blood Oxygen Levels
What causes blood oxygen levels to become low?
Blood oxygen levels can get low due to any of the problems that include:
- Low air oxygen levels: Atmospheric oxygen becomes extremely low at high altitudes such as mountainous regions.
- Decreased capacity of the body to take in oxygen: This can be caused by lung conditions that include asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and more.
- Other conditions include anemia, sleep apnea, and smoking
- Decreased capacity of the heart to supply the oxygenated blood back to the lungs
Asthma vs. COPD: What are the differences?
- Asthma is characterized by reversible airway narrowing, whereas COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) typically has fixed airway narrowing.
- Some symptoms of COPD are similar to asthma, including wheezing, shortness of breath, and cough.
- The cough in COPD can be more productive of mucus than asthma, and patients with severe COPD may need oxygen supplementation.
- COPD is very often a result of cigarette smoke exposure, either direct or secondhand, although severe asthma can evolve to COPD over time in the absence of smoke exposure.
- Medications used to treat COPD include inhaled corticosteroids, bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroid/bronchodilator combinations, long-acting muscarinic antagonists, and oral steroids.
- There is a newly described syndrome called asthma/COPD overlap syndrome that displays characteristics of both asthma and COPD. This is an area of medicine that needs further study.