Asthma is a respiratory condition that causes constriction of the airways within the lungs.
People who suffer from asthma will experience attacks, during which they have difficulty breathing, which causes coughing and wheezing.
This condition is partially genetic, but can also be brought about by a number of environmental factors as well.
If you have asthma, you may be concerned about the effect it has on the long-term health of your lungs.
In this article we will discuss the damage that can be caused by asthma as well as whether or not it can cause scarring of the lungs (airway fibrosis).
We will then cover a few of the common treatment measures used to prevent this scarring and alleviate the symptoms of asthma.
What Is Asthma
Asthma is a respiratory illness that affects roughly 25 million people in the USA alone. It manifests in ‘attacks’ where the airways within the lungs get narrower.
This leads to a person not being able to inhale or exhale as much air, impeding the efficiency of respiration.
Asthma attacks normally involve difficulty breathing, as well as wheezing and coughing. They can be brought on by a number of different factors.
Intense, or sudden physical exercise, allergenic particles such as pollen, and certain chemicals can all act as triggers for one of these attacks.
Common Causes Of Asthma
Asthma can be a genetic condition passed down from parent to child, but it can also be brought about by environmental factors as well.
If you have a sinus infection or other form of respiratory disease while you are a baby, then you will be more likely to develop asthma later on in life.
Even adults can develop asthma without having had it as a child. This is especially the case if they work in an environment where they are frequently exposed to dust, exhaust fumes or other pollutants.
Asthma has also been linked to specific allergies that are more likely to cause the condition and trigger attacks.
Can Asthma Attacks Cause Lung Scarring?
Fibrosis is a medical term that refers to the thickening of tissue, usually due to it being scarred.
Airway fibrosis refers specifically to scarring of the epithelial tissue within the lungs and can cause a number of problems.
Epithelial tissue is made up of a single layer of cells so that certain molecules such as oxygen and carbon dioxide can pass through it with ease.
If this tissue becomes scarred, or thicker, then it will limit the movement of these substances. As such, airway fibrosis can greatly reduce the efficiency of respiration and limit the amount of oxygen that is absorbed into your bloodstream.
Asthma attacks can cause airway fibrosis if they are not treated or kept in check. The inflammation of your airways that causes an asthma attack in the first place can lead to the epithelial cells becoming damaged.
When they repair themselves, scar tissue forms, which makes the tissue thicker and less effective at its job.
This is called airway remodeling, and it can have a significant impact on the severity of asthma attacks.
As well as making the attacks worse, airway remodeling can also make them occur more frequently
While many asthma sufferers will alleviate their symptoms with inhaled corticosteroids, these won’t prevent or treat airway fibrosis.
In fact, severe scarring of the lungs will often reduce the benefits offered by an inhaler.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage that asthma causes to your lungs.
How To Avoid Airway Remodeling
Airway remodeling is a common condition in asthma sufferers, but it is avoidable. As well as using an inhaler, those with asthma can also take certain long-term medications to reduce inflammation in their lungs and reduce the severity of attacks.
These medications need to be taken daily, not just when an attack occurs. However, doing so can greatly reduce the chance of airway remodeling and save people with asthma from a lot of suffering later on in life.
As well as seeking out and taking long term medication, it is very important to know what triggers your asthma attacks. Knowing what causes your condition to flare up, will go a long way towards keeping it in check.
Another thing that can help is using a peak flow meter to measure how fast you can push air out of your lungs.
This will give an indication of the overall health of your lungs and help you to know when your condition is worsening, even if you aren’t suffering from an attack.
Attacks Aren’t The Only Sign Of Asthma
It is very important to remember that asthma symptoms are not always present.
Many people with this condition live their lives while only rarely having an actual attack. However, it is important to note that your asthma may still be damaging your lungs, even if you can’t feel it.
Some people can experience severe inflammation due to asthma without outwardly displaying any of the symptoms commonly connected to an attack.
As such, you need to keep track of how bad your condition is, without just waiting for yourself to feel bad before you seek help.
Waiting too long could cause significant airway remodeling, even if it has been a long time since your last attack.
The best way to keep track of how healthy your lungs are is by using a peak flow meter.
This will give an indication of your lung’s air capacity, so you will know when your condition is acting up, even if you aren’t having an attack.
The damage caused by airway fibrosis is permanent, however it is also thankfully preventable.
Taking steps now to control your asthma and prevent airway remodeling will help you to live a longer, happier life without your disease getting in the way.
If you are worried about airway fibrosis as an asthma sufferer, then consult your doctor and see what you can do right now to prevent it.
After all, the sooner you take steps to manage your condition, the sooner you can get back to living your life without having to constantly worry about it.