For many years people have been asking the same question, whether asthma and emphysema are the same diseases. If they are not, than what is the key distinction between them? Another question is whether one of them follows the other one. Therefore, the aim of this essay is to shed light on both of the diseases in order to guarantee the safety of the society.
To begin with, asthma and emphysema are two utterly divergent types of diseases, although they have almost the same symptoms. Asthma is considered to be a spasmodic and inflammatory disorder of the airways that leads to reversible occlusion of bronchial tubes. On the contrary, emphysema is an affliction of the lung tissue, namely the alveoli (or air sacs) at the end of the bronchial tubes. In most cases, it is the outcome of the ruination of these alveoli (Donohue & Ohar, 2007).
When asthmatic person comes into contact with an airways’ irritant, the muscles all over the walls of the airways compress, the airways narrow and the lining of the airways turns to be infected and extended. In some cases, appears the mucilage that makes the airways narrower. Those who are suffering from asthma usually have the feelings of tighten, inflamed airways that are filled with mucus (Donohue & Ohar, 2007).
It is hard to detect what causes asthma. However, scientists become more confident that some facets of contemporary lifestyle play an inevitable role in developing the asthma throughout last few decades. The most common facets are house modifying, changes in diet and antiseptic surrounding. The situation is very serious with an air pollution that makes the symptoms of asthma even worse. In addition, is has been proved that there is almost a 90 percent likelihood that one can suffer from asthma if someone in his/her family has the evidences of asthma, eczema or some other kinds of allergies. There is no doubt that the family history together with the current environment cause the increase of the asthmatics (Junaid, 2010).
Asthma can be inborn and acquired. Numerous researches have shown that the risk of developing asthma increases, as a result of smoking during the pregnancy. Consequently, due to the mothers’ indifference and imprudence, children are suffering from asthma from the very first days of their lives. On the contrary, people are able to gain such disease with the years. Indeed, adults can succumb to asthma after a slight viral infection or even because of constant irritants at the workplace (occupational asthma) (Junaid, 2010).
The most common asthma symptoms involve:
- Coughing, particularly at night time and early in the morning
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness, pain and pressure in the chest area
- Constant feeling of being exhausted, while exercising
- Cold or allergy symptoms (sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, and headache).
There are also some supplementary symptoms which tend to appear at the beginning of the disease:
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling upset, tired or moody without any reason
- Difficulty in pronunciation
- Feelings of anxiety or panic
- Pale and perspiring face
- Blue lips or fingernails (Junaid, 2010).
Nevertheless, every person experiences asthma in different ways. For instance, one person may not have all these symptoms, while the other may have them all at once. Additionally, asthma symptoms may vary from one asthma attack to another, being mild during one and grave during another. Some asthmatics may live a half of their life without any signs of asthma. Others may suffer from asthma symptoms every single day. Moreover, some people may have asthmatic attacks while exercising, while others may have it lying on the sofa (Junaid, 2010).
An asthma attack is a period when muscles, surrounding the airways tend to tighten. In a medical lexicon it is called bronchospasm. During the attack, the lining of the airways gets expanded and infected and the cells lining starts to produce bigger amount of mucus, which usually appears to be thicker than normal. Mild asthma attacks are usually more typical. Normally, the airways remain open for a few minutes till a few hours. To the contrary, grave attacks are less likely to happen; however, they last longer and need an instant medical help. It is of the great importance to differentiate and to treat both mild and grave asthma symptoms in order to prevent regular periods and take a better control of the asthma (Junaid, 2010).
Although asthma is a long-term disease and it has no cure, it usually responds to treatment. Up to this point, the aim of such treatment is not to cure completely, but to take the disease under control. A good control of asthma includes preventing chronic symptoms, such as coughing and breath shortness, decreasing a need for quick-relief medications; it also maintains a good lung functioning, improves the sleeping, prevents asthma attacks that usually lead to visiting a doctor (Donohue & Ohar, 2007).
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Nowadays there exist two types of medicines for asthma treatment: long-term control and quick-relief. The first one helps to decrease the airway inflammation and to prevent asthma symptoms. The second type helps to relieve asthma symptoms that may suddenly appear. The treatment depends on the difficulty of the asthma. The appropriate medications also depend on the age, symptoms and asthma triggers. Long-term control asthma medications are necessarily taken every day. That is why they keep asthma under control and reduce the possibility of asthma attack. This type of medications involves:
- Inhaled corticosteroids (fluticasone, mometasone, beclomethasone, flunisolide, ciclesonide and others) have relatively low risk of negative effects and are safe for long-term usage.
- Leukotriene modifiers (montelukast, zileuton and zafirlukast) help to relieve asthma symptoms approximately to 24 hours. However, this type of medications leads to aggression, hallucinations, suicide thinking and depression.
- Combination inhalers (mometasone-formoterol, budesonide-formoterol and fluticasone-salmeterol) help to reduce the risk of having asthma attacks.
- Long-acting beta agonists (formoterol and salmeterol) decrease inflammation and open the airways.
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Quick-relief medications are used during the asthma attack for the short-term symptom relief or even before exercising, in case doctor prescribes it. There are several types of these medications:
- Short-acting beta agonists (albuterol, pirbuterol, levalbuterol) act during few minutes and considerably lower the symptoms within the attack.
- Oral corticosteroids (methylprednisolone and prednisone) relieve airway inflammation, resulted by asthma.
- Ipratropium immediately relieves the airways in order to help breathing. Generally, it is used for chronic bronchitis; however, it may be used for asthma attacks (Donohue & Ohar, 2007).
On the contrary, emphysema is not a reversible disease and it does not respond well to treatment. It is quite progressive, since one can have shortage of breath and become more disabled. In order to feel comfortable with such a disease, it is advisable to keep concentrated oxygen all the time. In many cases, this disease can turn into a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (Sin, Wu & Man, 2007).
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The only distinction amidst asthma and emphysema refers to the place of its formation in breathing system. To clarify this, asthma occurs in the airpipes, called bronchi, while emphysema appears at the end of the airpipes, called alveoli. Furthermore, asthma is related to restriction of airflow by squeezing or blocking the airpipes. Emphysema is explained by clogging up of the alveoli at the end of the airpipes (Sundar & Hwang, 2010).
The most considerable emphysema causes are fumes and other irritants that destroy lungs and airways. Smoking is on top of the list of the irritants. However, dust and genetics also play a crucial role in lungs damage. The possibility to develop emphysema is higher in those who used to spend time around chemical fumes and breathe the polluted air. Most people who are suffering from emphysema smoke or used to smoke in the past. Moreover, people with a family history of emphysema have the higher risk to catch emphysema if smoking (Sundar & Hwang, 2010).
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Symptoms of emphysema are subtle, that is why it is hard to recognize the disease at the early stages. Nowadays, there is no treatment for the disease and it is getting worse all the time. It is important to pay attention on the early symptoms of the disease, which are:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
- Rapid breathing
- Barrel chest (Leader, 2011).
People with emphysema may also suffer from some additional symptoms, such as depression, problems with sleeping, decreased sexual function, loss of the appetite and weight loss. Moreover, emphysema symptoms tend get worse with time. A lot of information about the occurrence of emphysema is missing, that is why it is almost impossible to foresee the pace of symptoms’ progression. Indeed, some people may experience the progress of symptoms faster, while it is slower for others (Leader, 2011).
Emphysema is a disease that cannot be cured; however, some treatments are able to relieve symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. First of all, it is vital to take some medications, such as smoking cessation drugs (bupropion hydrochloride, varenicline) which can assist to give up smoking. Bronchodilators are responsible for coughing relief and trouble breathing relief. Inhaled steroids (aerosol sprays) are responsible for preventing the shortness of breath (Sundar & Hwang, 2010).
Additionally, some therapeutic methods can help combating with emphysema. For instance, pulmonary rehabilitation teaches how to breathe in order to decrease the shortness of breath. This rehabilitation also assists people with the proper nutrition, because a lot of people tend to lose much weight due to the disease. Surgery is also one of the variants of emphysema treatments, however only in the severe cases. Doctor may suggest two types of the surgery, such as lung volume reduction and lung transplant (Sundar & Hwang, 2010).
All in all, both of the diseases have similar signs and symptoms; however, asthma seems to be less damaging because of the different destruction of lung tissue and periods of airways restriction. Asthma and emphysema do not have cure; however, both of them have treatment which can highly improve and control diseases’ symptoms.