How does asthma work? – Christopher E. Gaw


It starts with a cough, or a wheeze. Soon, your chest feels tight. Your breathing speeds up
and gets shallower, making you feel short of breath. These are common symptoms
of an asthma attack. Around the world, more than 300 million
people suffer from asthma, and around 250,000 people
die from it each year. But why do people get asthma
and how can this disease be deadly? Asthma affects the respiratory system, particularly the smaller airways, such as the bronchi and bronchioles. These airways have an inner lining
called the mucosa that’s surrounded
by a layer of smooth muscle. In people with asthma, the airways
are chronically inflamed, which can make them hyper-responsive
to certain triggers. Some of the many asthma triggers
include tobacco smoke, pollen, dust, fragrances, exercise, cold weather, stress, and even the common cold. When people with asthma are exposed
to these triggers, an asthma attack, or exacerbation,
can occur. But how exactly do such everyday factors
lead to an asthma attack? If an asthmatic is exposed to a trigger, the smooth rings of muscle that circle
the small airways in their lungs contract and become narrow. Simultaneously, the trigger
worsens inflammation, causing the mucosal lining
to become more swollen and secrete more mucus. Under normal conditions, the body uses this mucus to trap
and clear particles, like pollen or dust, but during an asthma attack, it blocks the narrowed airways,
making it even harder to breathe. These effects lead
to this symptoms of asthma. Smooth muscle constriction results
in the feeling of chest tightness. Excess mucus and increased inflammation
can cause coughing. And the wheezing noise? That happens because
as the airways constrict, air whistles as it passes through
the narrowed space. These symptoms may make a person
feel like they’re running out of air. Yet counterintuitively,
during an asthma attack, the inflammation can make it harder
to exhale than inhale. Over time, this leads to an excess
of air in the lungs, a phenomenon known as hyperinflation. The trapping of air inside the lungs
forces the body to work harder to move air in and out of them. Over time, this can lead to reduced oxygen
delivery to the body’s organs and tissues. Sometimes, in untreated
severe asthma attacks, the body can’t keep up, which can lead to death from
lack of oxygen. So how do we prevent these uncomfortable
and potentially fatal attacks in people who have asthma? One way is to reduce the presence
of triggers. Unfortunately, the world
is an unpredictable place and exposure to triggers can’t
always be controlled. This is where inhalers, the primary
treatment for asthma, come in. These medications help asthmatics both
control and prevent their asthma symptoms. Inhalers transport medication along
the affected airways using a liquid mist or fine powder
to treat the problem at its source. They come in two forms. There are reliever medications, which treat symptoms immediately
and contain beta-agonists. Beta-agonists relax constricted muslces, allowing the airways to widen so more air
can travel into and out of the lungs. The other form of inhalers serve
as preventive medications, which treat asthma symptoms
over the long term, and contain corticosteroids. Corticosteroids reduce airway sensitivity
and inflammation, so asthma can be kept under control. They’re also crucial in preventing
long-term damage from chronic inflammation, which can cause scarring of the airways. Inhalers are known to be very effective, and have helped many people
live better lives. Although we’ve come a long way
in improving how we treat and diagnose asthma, we still don’t know its exact causes. We currently believe that a combination
of genetic and environmental factors play a role, potentially acting during early childhood. Recent research has even linked
poverty to asthma incidents. This may be due to reasons ranging from exposure to additional pollutants
and environmental irritants to difficulties in obtaining medical care
or treatment. As our understanding of asthma improves, we can continue to find better ways to
keep people’s airways happy and healthy.

100 thoughts on “How does asthma work? – Christopher E. Gaw

  1. i have cough since 2 month and cold now my doc said u have asthma litlbit very little thy gave medicine and ihaler . i have alergy from dust

  2. Once I had an asthma attack. It was so hard to breathe that I wished to die rather than surfing from genetic asthma the only health issue i have. It concerns me that i won't be able to live much
    😢😢😢

  3. One of the worst scenario of my asthma is laughing so hard at something. Imagine having your airways constricted and cant stop laughing. Damn its hard, i feel like im abt to dye from my laughter. 😂

  4. Asthma can be cured by Ayurveda, and I have almost cured it. Okay so I used to have severe asthma attacks 2-3 times a day, and I was living horribly. I have been using inhalers for the past 15 years, since I was 10 years old. But then I met with an Ayurveda doctor, he prescribed me some medicines, and just 3-4 days later, I saw the effects. Now i get asthma attacks in some 14-15 days. I am posting two pics of the medicine that tge doctor prescribed. One is a syrup and other is a tablet. I first take the tablet then the syrup 1 hour before meal 3 times a day. And Ayurveda medicines don't usually affect your bodies in bad way as it's just natural plants extracts.
    https://ibb.co/Q69Lf1q
    https://ibb.co/TLRmsMX
    https://ibb.co/6WmHghj

  5. "There's too many dust and pollen in the air, lemme just kill myself by suffocation real quick to prevent damage to my lungs!"

    —the brain during an asthma attack.

  6. Idk if i have asthma or not but if i try running after 30 seconds i already get hard breathing and usually the next day i get intense throat pain

  7. Wow I didn’t realize that many people die from it. I have asthma and when I get an asthma attack I feel like I’m dying and my lungs will not work and it feels like I wont breathe. I did the pacer test yesterday and I only got 11; last year I got 17 and in 5th grade I got twenty-something. It gets worse every year no matter if I use 1 or 3 puffs of albuterol.

  8. EY MY ASTMA CAN HAPPEN BEACAUSE OD TWO THINGS HOT AND COLD WEATHER
    also my crush might like me back yay
    Edit: 3 things actually hot and cold weather and dust

  9. I clicked the video because I have shortness of breath (that might be an asthma attack idk) when I write or copy essays that are more than 3 paragraphs. I don’t know why it happens so I pressed this video.

    edit: but i dont have asthma 😅

  10. I really think I have asthma and here is why:
    1-I can’t run with out hurting my lungs !
    2- when I get scared or excited my lungs seems to not work.
    3- when working out I’m taking brakes to breath… I tell my trainer that I can’t breath he says tough it out. My lungs felt locked
    4- at night or sleepy I can yawn ( my lungs feel like the oxygen won’t go in, because it has air already in not leaving)
    Should I see a doctor ? I went before and they say all is well but maybe I should tell them I might have asthma ?

  11. Asthmatics also have it hard to call for help, as lack of air results in inability to make a sound. We know from physics that in order to make a sound, vibrations need to be created, which can only happen in a room filled with air. Lack of air = no vibrations, no sound.
    This happened to me once, when I had my first asthma attack. You can't draw anyone's attention. You just wait for someone to notice you can't breathe.

  12. My question is, how did they figure this out? Did someone open up a patient who had asthma and carved into the lungs? Or did an Xray manage to catch this phenomenon? Or is this a theory seen as fact? Oh, you have trouble breathing, inhale this to feel better. Why can't we just make something to cure asthma for good? Why does everything have to be profited off of?

  13. I have asthma and have to run a 5k (3.107) miles tomorrow and I’m so scared something is gonna go wrong or I’m gonna get made fun of because my time is gonna be horrible

  14. Severe asthma is so hard to compete against. You feel completely tired and fed up of breathing as if you have lost control over your brain. This is when those suicidal thoughts generate.

  15. I feel like I kinda have it because I feel like I can never catch my breath. In phy ed I'm wheezing and my chest hurts so much

  16. the hardest part is that my doctor can’t seem to diagnose my asthma. i struggle with it every single day but they keep saying “it’s in your head.” i could not sleep till 5 am because of my asthma. i tell them to give me medicine to provide me with some kind of temporary relief but they don’t seem to listen. they don’t even bother diagnosing me and giving me medicine to make me feel better.

  17. Don’t you just hate when you get asthma at night and you have to try to find a inhaler or that thing we have to get on if the inhaler doesn’t work it just feels like you’re gonna die it’s the worst experience anyone who has asthma could ever get such a sad affect on our body’s the people who doesn’t has asthma wouldn’t understand a single thing

  18. To be honest, I have moderately serious asthma all my life, however, most people with asthma have mild asthma, and don't have it for that long ( like childhood asthma or a decade or-so long term).
    So for all of those people who have asthma, I feel you and I know what you mean by it.

    (btw i have learned some new and cool things from this video. I also love the ted-ed videos too :D)

  19. I have been a regular smoker to this day and an asthmatic. I always had asthma since birth. I’m 48 now but surprisingly strange enough cigarettes somehow do not appear to trigger or affect my asthma or give me an attack ! But I found myself more likely sensitive to many allergies such as house dust , perfumes, pet dander/fur, extreme heat or cold ,severe emotions such as anger, anxiety, etc. Only to name a few . These I could say, can practically kill me ! But Despite my condition I can still manage to get to enjoy smoking. Or else I woulda quit long before.

  20. We made a new simple explainer video for asthma: https://youtu.be/egA4oQhia6Q – helpful for patients and their families!

  21. I have a Asthma since I'm born but in my Elementary days I can run fast or anything doing a normal people but when Im turn to 19 after I smelled the Spray paint it was back and now I'm not able to run or hiking or bring heavy things ..

    As of now its been 4 days I can't Breath normal I need to take deep breath..
    Symptoms
    ❌ Too much water/food
    ❌ heavy things
    ❌ easy tired of talking/ shouting
    ❌ strong winds
    ❌ smoke of fire/ Cigarette

    I'm Depressed so it's okay till I can't breath 🙂 don't wanna go to check up😢

  22. I don't have asthma,but seeing this video made my heart beat faster and made me feel hard to breathe
    What the heck

  23. I remember in 5th grade,I was screaming and I had my first asthma attack.I fell over because of the shock and since I was unaware of what was going on I tried to scream again but what came out was this inhuman screeching noise,and according to my friends my eyes because red and tears ran down my cheeks.I started to recover and I started screaming in pain again,and then after a few minutes of screeching and tumbling,I was back to normal.My friends ran away from me because they thought I got possessed from Satan-

  24. Had an asthma attack on the middle of gym once from the running

    My teachers response: walk me back and fourth across the gym and ask if I actually need to go down to the office every lap. As I’m crying, struggling to breathe, and about to turn purple

  25. I had Asthma from 6 to 14 years of age.
    Nobody ever believed me when I said that smoke made me get Asthma attacks. They always acted like it wasnt real. Some people in my class would try to trigger me hard until I got so angry that I couldnt breath anymore. I told them I could die and they laughed.
    Worst Time of my life

  26. Okay I don’t want asthma but I kinda feel coughs during weekdays because my smart big brain teacher put me beside the air conditioner and when I say close it people at the back of the class say no it’s hot and then we want to change seats but my teacher says no

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