Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to difficulty breathing, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing. While the underlying mechanisms for chronic asthma and acute exacerbation are similar, there are differences in the degree and duration of inflammation and the severity of the symptoms.
Pathophysiological mechanisms of chronic asthma:
- Airway inflammation: Chronic asthma is characterized by persistent inflammation of the airways, which causes swelling, mucus production, and bronchoconstriction. This inflammation is caused by an immune response to various triggers, such as allergens, pollutants, and respiratory infections.
- Airway hyperresponsiveness: In chronic asthma, the airways become more sensitive to triggers, leading to exaggerated responses to stimuli that would not cause a reaction in healthy individuals. This hyperresponsiveness is caused by changes in the smooth muscle cells that line the airways and the nerve cells that control them.
- Remodeling of the airways: Chronic asthma can cause structural changes to the airways, such as thickening of the airway walls, increased mucus production, and narrowing of the airways. These changes can be irreversible and may lead to persistent breathing difficulties.
Pathophysiological mechanisms of acute asthma exacerbation:
- Acute airway inflammation: An asthma exacerbation is characterized by a sudden increase in airway inflammation, which can be triggered by various factors, including exposure to allergens or irritants, respiratory infections, exercise, or emotional stress. This inflammation can cause swelling, mucus production, and bronchoconstriction.
- Increased airway hyperresponsiveness: During an acute exacerbation, the airways become even more sensitive to triggers, leading to more severe and prolonged bronchoconstriction.
- Altered airway tone: In an acute exacerbation, the smooth muscle cells that line the airways become more contracted, leading to further narrowing of the airways and worsening of symptoms.
In summary, both chronic asthma and acute exacerbation involve airway inflammation, hyperresponsiveness, and altered airway tone, but the severity and duration of these mechanisms are different. Chronic asthma is characterized by persistent inflammation and structural changes to the airways, while acute exacerbations involve sudden and severe increases in inflammation and airway constriction.