This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm
Bob Doughty. This week we talk about the lung disease asthma.
is a serious lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. The World Health Organization says asthma affects
about three hundred million people worldwide. An estimated two hundred fifty
thousand people die from the disease every year. And, more than five hundred thousand are
happens when tissue that lines the airways to the lungs begins to expand or
swell. The swelling makes the airways smaller.
The muscles in the airways tighten. Cells
in the airways begin to produce too much of a thick, sticky substance called
mucous. The mucous causes the airways to
close even more. This makes it difficult
for air to flow in and out of the lungs.
series of events is called an asthma attack. As asthma sufferers struggle to get air into their lungs, they may begin
to cough a lot. They may also make a
whistling or squeaky sound, called wheezing, when they breathe. Some asthma sufferers have tightness or pain in
the chest. They say it feels as if someone
is sitting on them. When asthma is most severe, the person may have extreme
difficulty breathing. The disease can
severely limit a person's activity, and even lead to death.
Doctors do not know what causes asthma. Researchers
believe a combination of environmental and genetic factors may be responsible. Forty percent of children who have parents
with asthma will also develop the disease. Seventy percent of people with asthma also have allergies. Allergies are
abnormal reactions of the immune system in response to otherwise harmless
Doctors have identified many of the things that may
start, or trigger, an asthma attack. Triggers are things that cause the asthma
sufferer's airways to swell. Different
people are affected by different triggers. Allergens are one of the most common triggers. These impurities in the air cause allergic
reactions. Some of the more common
allergens include animal fur, dust, mold and pollen.
is a fine dust that comes from grass, trees and flowers. Mold is a type of
fungus. It can grow on the walls and floors of homes. It is commonly found in wet or damp areas
like bathrooms, kitchens and basements. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that twenty-one percent of asthma
in the United States is linked to mold and dampness in homes.
pollution can also trigger asthma. Cigarette
smoke is a major problem for asthma sufferers. So is air pollution caused by
cars. Chemical sprays like air
fresheners, hair spray, household cleaning products and even strong perfumes
can also trigger an asthma attack.
people cough, wheeze or feel out of breath during or after exercise. They are said to suffer from exercise induced
asthma. During the winter, breathing in
cold air can trigger asthma symptoms. So
can colds and other respiratory infections.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than twenty-two million
people suffer from asthma in the United Sates. Among adults, more women have the disease than
men. Asthma affects more than seven
million children each year and is considered one of the leading childhood
illnesses. It is more common among boys
National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases says the disease
affects African Americans more than whites. African American children die from the disease at five times the rate of
English reporter June Simms has a thirteen year old son with asthma. Arick first showed signs of the disease when
he was about two years old. He had a bad
cold that seemed to last longer than usual. It was very difficult for him to breathe. When his mother listened to his chest she
could hear that squeaky whistling sound known as wheezing. Arick was diagnosed with asthma during an
emergency visit to the doctor.
The doctor gave Arick a medicine called albuterol. Albuterol helps to relax the muscles in the
airways of the lungs and increases air flow. The doctor also gave Arick a
special machine called a nebulizer. It is
attached to a mask that he placed over his mouth and nose. The nebulizer turned the liquid albuterol
medicine into mist. Arick inhaled the
mist through the mask. The treatments made
it easier for him to breathe. During
times when Arick's asthma was really severe, he was also given steroids to help
reduce swelling in his airways.
As Arick grew older, the doctor replaced his nebulizer
with a small medical device called an inhaler. He also began seeing a doctor who specializes in treating patients with
asthma. This doctor said Arick was "a
poor perceiver of his asthma." That
means he had a hard time realizing when it was out of control. She advised his parents to use a special
device called a peak flow meter. It
measures the amount of air Arick is able to push out of his lungs. This can help him realize he is having a
problem before he feels it.
The doctor also
discovered that Arick suffers from allergies. He now takes daily medicines to help keep his
asthma and allergies under control. In two thousand five, he successfully completed the American Lung
Association Open Airways for Schools Program. Now Arick is considered an expert
in his asthma management. It has been more than two years since he has been to a hospital
emergency room because of asthma. And, he
is using his inhaler a whole lot less.
Asthma has become a major health problem
around the world, and a great problem for individuals, families and
economies. The yearly economic cost of
asthma is close to twenty billion dollars.
And, the World Health Organization says
asthma rates are increasing worldwide by an average of fifty percent every ten
years. The largest increase has been among children.
Global Initiative for Asthma, or GINA, was formed in nineteen ninety-three to
raise attention about the growing problem. It also seeks to improve asthma care around the world.
GINA is a joint effort between
the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of
Health and the World Health Organization. GINA released a report called "The Global Burden of Asthma" in two
thousand four. It said asthma is not just a
growing problem in industrial countries. It is also on the rise in developing countries.
The GINA report suggests that asthma rates in
developing countries increase as they become more westernized. The report estimates that there may be an additional one
hundred million people with asthma by the year two thousand twenty-five.
cannot be cured, it can be successfully controlled. This year, GINA's World Asthma Day campaign
was once again called "You Can Control Your Asthma." The organization launched the campaign in two
thousand seven. Its aim is to show that
a large majority of asthma patients can control the disease with correct
treatment. GINA says several simple steps can help people control their asthma.
take their asthma medicines the way their doctor says to take them. Most people
need two kinds of medicines. One is a
quick-acting "rescue" medicine taken when needed to stop asthma symptoms. The
other is a controller medicine taken every day to prevent these symptoms.
should know the causes of their asthma symptoms and try to avoid these
triggers. For example, try to avoid
animals with fur, dust, pollen from trees and flowers or cigarette smoke. Some
people may need to take medicines before they work hard or exercise.
should work with their doctors to control the disease. They should go to the doctor for check-ups
even if they are feeling fine. They should make sure they understand how and
when to take their medicines. And they should act quickly to treat asthma
attacks and know when to seek medical help.
This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was
written by June Simms. Our producer was Brianna
Blake. I'm Faith Lapidus.
And I'm Bob Doughty. Archives of our
programs are at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for SCIENCE IN THE
NEWS in VOA Special English.