For my Capstone Assignment, I have chosen to study exercise-induced asthma. I have suffered from this condition for many years, and as someone who likes to go to the gym, I would say that the effects of this are more on quality of life than anything else. Physical activity and cold air leave people like me feeling breathless and coughing incessantly. I have chosen to organize my project using three different categories. The first is diagnosis, the second is disease mechanism and causes, and the last is treatment. I have chosen these categories because they are fairly obvious and simple for a condition like asthma.
In the diagnosis category, the majority of literature seems to focus on two different types of tests, direct and indirect, that are used to determine whether or not a patient suffers from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Direct tests use pharmacological substances to see whether or not airway contractions are induced. Indirect tests mimic conditions one would face during physical activity that would induce asthmatic symptoms. Results are obtained from these tests and physicians can prescribe medications according to the severity of the patient’s asthma.
In the causes of disease category, the majority of the literature suggests that mast cells, which are white blood cells, contain inflammatory substances that are released and cause contractions of the smooth muscle in an asthmatic’s airway. Also, flux of ions through calcium channels is often disturbed which has an effect on smooth muscle. High levels of adenosine, phospholipase activity, and mucins (proteins in gel layer of airway surface liquid) have implications for causes of bronchospasms in exercise-induced asthmatics. Disease mechanism is not actually completely clear in asthmatics and there are many, many palliative treatments for the condition.
To treat asthma, many physicians use drugs that prevent the release of inflammatory mediators from mast cells, such as histamine. This attenuates bronchospasms. Moving downstream a bit, sometimes antagonists of the receptors of these mediators are used to prevent the inflammatory result (including calcium antagonists for the reasons mentioned in disease causes). Corticosteroids are often used to treat the condition. Ultimately, asthma cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be managed in pharmacological and non-pharmacological ways.
This condition, as was just mentioned, is one to be monitored and managed. The field comes down to using the right tests to diagnose and assess the severity of the exercise-induced bronchoconstriction and prescribing the right medications to reduce the inflammation of the airway that leaves a runner wheezing, coughing, and out of breath.
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