Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside Illustration of asthmawalls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them very sensitive, and they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When your airways react, they get narrower and your lungs get less air.

Symptoms of asthma include

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing, especially early in the morning or at night
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath

Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms. Having these symptoms doesn’t always mean that you have asthma. Your doctor will diagnose asthma based on lung function tests, your medical history, and a physical exam. You may also have allergy tests.

When your asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it’s called an asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.

Asthma is treated with two kinds of medicines: quick-relief medicines to stop asthma symptoms and long-term control medicines to prevent symptoms.

Autoimmune Diseases

Your body’s immune system protects you from disease and infection. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Autoimmune diseases can affect many parts of the body.Illustration of the immune system

No one is sure what causes autoimmune diseases. They do tend to run in families. Women – particularly African-American, Hispanic-American, and Native-American women – have a higher risk for some autoimmune diseases.

There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, and some have similar symptoms. This makes it hard for your health care provider to know if you really have one of these diseases, and if so, which one. Getting a diagnosis can be frustrating and stressful. Often, the first symptoms are fatigue, muscle aches and a low fever. The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain and swelling.

The diseases may also have flare-ups, when they get worse, and remissions, when symptoms get better or disappear. Treatment depends on the disease, but in most cases one important goal is to reduce inflammation. Sometimes doctors prescribe corticosteroids or other drugs that reduce your immune response.

 

Immune System and Disorders

Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend against germs. It helps your body to recognize Illustration of the immune systemthese “foreign” invaders. Then its job is to keep them out, or if it can’t, to find and destroy them.

If your immune system cannot do its job, the results can be serious. Disorders of the immune system include

  • Allergy and asthma – immune responses to substances that are usually not harmful
  • Immune deficiency diseases – disorders in which the immune system is missing one or more of its parts
  • Autoimmune diseases – diseases causing your immune system to attack your own body’s cells and tissues by mistake