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The Causes and Effects of Asthma Sufferers Essay

The Problem

With 5.2 million diagnosed asthmatics in the UK, Asthma is a common disease which affects both adults and children. Of these 5.2 million asthmatics, 1.1 million are children. Asthma is a condition that has been around for many years and has caused around 1400 deaths per year, of which 90% are preventable. [1]

The numbers of asthma cases have been high due to environmental changes, familial history and lifestyle choices such as smoking during pregnancy to name but a few. It is a chronic condition that affects the airways, causing breathing difficulties. The condition has different levels, long-lasting or recurrent. Mild forms of asthma can affect people, as can very severe cases of asthma. Sufferers of asthma have a lower supply of air to and from the lungs. As this serious condition affects so many people, can it actually be cured?

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways of sufferers. The inside walls of the airways are inflamed or swollen. This inflammation makes your airways very sensitive to any form of irritations and causes an allergic reaction to occur. As the airways become inflamed, they become narrower, restricting the flow of air to and from the lungs. This air restriction causes symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and also breathing difficulties. These symptoms are more likely to be experienced at night or in the early morning hours. [2] Many causes and triggers of asthma have been identified. Dust, paint and pet hairs are just a few of the identified examples. [1]

Below is a diagram of a normal and an asthmatic bronchiole: [pic] Words: 299

The Solution

A solution for treating asthma would be the use of inhalers. This is the most common treatment for asthma, and is much more effective than tablets or liquid by mouth. There are two main types of inhalers, reliever inhalers and preventer inhalers. Inhalers contain drugs that are delivered directly to the lungs. [3] Relievers (Blue), e.g. Salbutamol, contain bronchodilator drugs which widen the bronchi so that more air can pass through, making breathing easier. This is a fast treatment to relieve symptoms and is only usually used when needed.

Preventers (Brown), e.g. Pulmicort, contain steroids that reduce the inflammation in the airways. When the inflammation has gone, it is much less likely for the airways to narrow and cause symptoms. This is not an immediate reliever of pain as it takes 7-14 days for the drug to build up its effect. This reduces the need to use a reliever inhaler, as symptoms more or less disappear. [4]

Is the solution appropriate?

The use of inhalers is appropriate as the steroids they contain to treat asthma are corticosteroids. These are imitations of the natural steroid that is produced in our bodies. [1] Also as these steroids are inhaled, a tiny amount is absorbed into the body, as they go directly into the lungs. Also the dose supplied through the inhaler is a very mild dosage, so therefore will not have any major side effect on the body. The drug also acts faster as it travels directly into the lung. Hence, inhalers are considered as the best treatment for asthma because of the effectiveness of the doses taken.

Implications of solution to problem

A sufferer’s social life can become damaged due to having asthma, therefore it has social implications. This is due to asthmatic patients needing to carry their inhalers around to treat an attack if it occurs. This is not an average thing to do within the realm of a critical society so it is deemed as a social issue of asthma. Undoubtedly, sufferers feel outcast as they are perceived differently to others and cannot socialise in the way that others can. This is because the younger generation of today, usually socialises through smoking or physically demanding activities, football. These are both difficult to perform or even more harmful to an asthmatic than a normal, healthy person. Medical research should soon create a treatment for asthma which can be carried around easily and is smaller in size.

However, the smaller size would mean fewer doses in one inhaler and also in the duration of an asthma attack, a small inhaler would be harder to find on a person, unlike a larger inhaler. Also economical issues are linked with this disease as the medical treatments cost a lot of money to produce and then supply to patients. Manufacturing the current inhalers cost a very large amount of money, to change this and produce smaller inhalers would cause costs to rise further. Machinery would have to change and so would the workers routines, so that an efficient technique of producing the smaller, attractive and trendy inhalers is achieved.

Benefits and risks of the solution

Inhalers are not completely safe to use as side effects do occur due to the drug contained in the inhaler. A very common drug that inhalers contain is steroids for which side effects occur. The steroids contained are not anabolic steroids that enhance athletic performance. Most side effects to asthmatic steroids are in the upper airway and the throat. The steroids weaken the voice slightly as the muscle controlling the movement of the larynx also weakens.

However the problem can be overcome by using spacer devices and rinsing the mouth out after using the inhaler. Steroids have also been suggested to retard children in their growth, although it is known that poorly treated asthma causes failure to grow properly. Normal doses of steroids for asthma do not cause growth failure, whereas high doses may affect growth. [5] Steroids are not only bad as they help with breathing difficulties by relaxing the muscle to allow an increase in the amount of air flow to the lungs and the body. This helps the sufferer of asthma to breathe more comfortably as air travels round the body more freely. Another benefit of using inhalers is that only small doses are prescribed to patients who are diagnosed with asthma. This ensures the safety of the patient as they are not subjected to large doses which may have adverse effects on the body and their health too.

Alternative Solutions

There are many alternative solutions for treating asthma. Examples of the alternative solutions are oral therapy and also changing lifestyles so that trigger factors are minimised.

Oral therapy is a treatment for asthma as it is the same treatment as an Words: 1110 inhaler but is in a different form. It is a tablet that contains steroids that reduce the inflammation of the airways and also reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Relievers and preventers do the same job as this, but take a powder form that is inhaled into the lungs. However, oral therapy is not very safe as each tablet contains a higher dosage of steroids. Therefore it makes a patient more susceptible to the side effects of steroids. A tablet gives 50 times the dosage of steroids than an inhalation from a standard steroid inhaler. More serious side effects are linked with steroid tablets such as, diabetes, cataracts, increased hunger etc. [1]

Changing lifestyles would not treat the disease as no medication is involved to suppress the symptoms. This simply helps calm down and also remove symptoms that may trigger an attack. If triggers of asthma are reserved from a sufferer or even minimised when in close proximity to a sufferer, the chances of an asthma attack occurring is less likely. [6] Therefore a healthier lifestyle for an asthma sufferer leads to a less perilous lifestyle too. By inhaling cleaner air, the lungs are delivered a greater volume of air, which carries more oxygen. Thus making breathing easier as there is an excess of oxygen in the bloodstream, not causing the rapid heartbeat that is needed to pump blood around the body.

Validity of Sources

Information obtained from ‘http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/asthma.htm’ [2], is a GP and has the title of Doctor. Therefore this would become a reliable source of information as it has been written by someone who has a degree in treating and curing illnesses. Also as he is Dr. Roger Henderson, it shows that he has studied for a long period of time to understand the subject. This understanding was supported by ‘http://www.asthma.org.uk/all_about_asthma/medicines_treatments/’ [3], which is the society for asthma in the UK. This can be trusted fully as it delivers information on a disease which it is a specialist in. Therefore the sources can be deemed as reliable as they all confirm each others information.

Bibliography

1. Numark Pharmacy
Medicines Use Review, Page 4

2. Henderson, R, (10/06/2009), (21/02/2010)
http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/asthma.htm

3. Asthma UK, (04/01/2008), (23/02/2010)
http://www.asthma.org.uk/all_about_asthma/medicines_treatments/

4. No Authors listed, (17/09/2008), (23/02/2010)
http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Inhalers-for-Asthma.htm

5. Chung, K F, (2003), Treating Asthma (2) – Drug Therapy, Dr. Dan Rutherford, Asthma, 59-65, Great Britain, Hodder & Stoughton

6. Rollins, G, (published date not listed), (13/03/2010)
http://articles.directorym.com/Treatments_For_Asthma-a977839.html

KEY: Website, Book, Article

Words: 1518
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A pie chart that shows the inhaler success rate on asthmatic patients.

This shows the inflamed/swollen bronchiole of an asthmatic person.

This shows the normal bronchiole of a person who does not suffer from asthma.

http://www.thechiroteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/graph1.gif

http://www.mims.com/pic/Malaysia/4504.gif

http://salbutamolinhaler.com/images/salbutamol-inhaler.jpg

http://www.aaenvironment.com/Pictures/asthma.jpg


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