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Respiratory Diseases - Bronchial Diseases

asthma bronchitis emphysema attack

Asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema are complex illnesses for which there is no simple treatment. Treatments depend on the severity of the conditions. All three conditions are characterized by an involuntary smooth muscle constriction in the walls of the bronchial tubes. When nerve signals from the autonomic nervous system contract the bronchial muscles, the openings of the tubes close to the extent of creating a serious impediment to the patient's breathing.

Acute bronchitis is a short-term illness that occurs as a result of a viral infection of the bronchi. It is treated with antibiotics and may require attention in a hospital. Chronic bronchitis is a long-term illness that can be caused by such environmental factors as air pollution, tobacco smoke, and other irritants. There is a persistent cough and congestion of the airways.

In emphysema, the air spaces spread out beyond the bronchial tubes. Both chronic bronchitis and emphysema restrict air flow and there is a wheezing sound to the breathing. Unlike asthma, however, these two illnesses are not easily reversible. Airway constriction in the case of bronchitis and emphysema is less severe than in the case of an asthma attack, however.

Asthma is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system. While the cause for the condition is unknown, there is a connection between allergies and asthma in that an allergic reaction can trigger an asthma attack. Nerve messages cause muscle spasms in the lungs that either narrow or close the airway passages. These airways consist of narrow tube-like structures that branch off from the main bronchi and are called bronchioles. It is the extreme contraction of the muscle walls of the bronchioles that is responsible for the asthma attack. These attacks come and go in irregular patterns, and they vary in degree of severity.

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