The following post was published at MyAsthmaCentral April 11, 2011 by Rick Frea: "Asthma Terms You Should Know: Part 2."
One of the first priorities of anyone new to this asthma thing is to improve our asthma wisdom. We need to know as much about this disease as possible. By this we improve our ability to get it under control, and keep it that way.
That in mind, I've created an asthma lexicon of terms every asthmatic should know. Consider this part 2 of my post of a few years ago aptly titled "An Asthma Lexicon: Important Terms You Should Know."
So here's today's terms:
Acute: It's happening right now.
Chronic: It's going on all the time. Permanant.
Allergy: (Synonym: atopy) It's estimated 75 percent of asthmatics also have this. It's an abnormal reaction to an allergen. A normal reaction would be no reaction at all. The first time your body comes into contact with the allergen (dust mites for example) your body develops a defense against it. When the allergen is reintroduced your body attacks it the same as it would an enemy bacteria or virus. The reaction includes inflammation of the respiratory tract, eyes or skin. This often results in nasal congestion, itchy eyes, runny nose, wheezing (asthma), and skin rash.
Allergen: Anything that induces an allergic reaction. Common ones include dust mites, cockroach urine, molds, fungus, and animal dander. For a more detailed list of allergens and asthma triggers, check out this link.
Hypersensitivity: Extremely sensitive, as in sensitive to an allergen. The air passages (bronchioles) of asthmatic lungs are often hypersensitive to various asthma triggers, and they may become acutely inflamed (swollen) as a result of such contact. See allergy. This increased sensitivity may also be due to chronic inflammation of the air passages (which can be improved with corticosteroids).
Inflammation: Swelling and redness caused by some irritation. In asthma there is some chronic swelling of the air passages, and when exposed to asthma triggers this inflammation may become worse, or acute. Acute asthma is your asthma attack.
Rhinitis: (Synonym: hay fever) Inflammation (swelling) of the mucus membrane inside the nasal passage.
Sinusitis: (Synonym: sinus infection) Inflammation of the sinus passages
Beta Agonist: (Synonym: bronchodilator, rescue medicine) This is a medicine that has an affinity to beta receptors that line the respiratory tract, particularly the bronchioles. Once attached to the beta receptors a reaction occurs that relaxes the bronchiole muscles and opens up the air passages. This makes breathing easier. Examples include Ventolin and Xopenex.
Long Acting Beta Agonist (LABA): These work the same as Beta Agonists only the medicine can last up to 12 hours. Common examples are Serevent (a component in Advair) and Formoterol (a component in Symbicort).
Corticosteroids: (Synonym: steroids, glucocorticosteroid) A medicine often used to reduce inflammation in the air passages. Common examples include Flovent (a component in Advair) and Budesonide (a component in Symbicort).
Metered Dose Inhaler (DPI): (Synonym: puffer, inhaler, breather, rescue inhaler, atomizer) An easy to use and convenient to carry device used to aerosolize asthma medicine such as beta agonists and inhaled corticosteroids. It consists of the medicine mixed with a propellant held under pressure inside a metal cannister and a plastic sleeve with a little mouthpiece. When you press the canister medicine is sprayed and can be inhaled. For more information click here.
Dry Powdered Inhaler (DPI): The medicine is in powder form and usually comes in a device such as a discus or other device. The medicine is usually held inside a capsule that is crushed when you twist the device. The powder is inhaled when the patient places his mouth over the mouthpiece and inhales. For more information click here.
Nebulizer: (Synonym: Updraft therapy, Aerosol, Magic Mist, breathing machine, breathing treatment, peace pipe) This is a small cup that you put liquid medicine into, and once hooked up to an air source (like an air compressor) and pressurized air causes the liquid to become aerosolized and reduced to a fine mist that can be inhaled. Such treatments usually last five to 10 minutes. This is ideal for anyone who has trouble using an MDI. For more information click here.
If you come across an asthma term you want defined, leave a note in the comments below, or ask a question in our Q&A section.