Feeling short of breath or difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, dry cough or mucus production, especially at night, wheezing or wheezing when breathing, and a feeling of tightness in the chest are some of the most common symptoms that a person with asthma usually suffers from, although not everyone experiences it. the same or in the same way. It may happen that some of these signs appear at night, after exercise, when hypothermia, contact with allergens, or experiencing strong emotions.

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects more than 260 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The Spanish Society of Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR) estimates that between 5% and 10% of people in Spain have asthma. In recent years, the incidence of asthma has increased by 12.6% in middle-aged people, women and adolescents.

How asthma affects the airways

The airways of our lungs are surrounded by muscles and contain mucous glands. Under normal conditions, these muscles are relaxed. But in a person with asthma, they are often painful and inflamed.

The disease “is a chronic inflammation, partly due to genetic factors, that causes patients to experience episodes of airway spasms that are usually reversible spontaneously or with medication,” acknowledges Dr. Maria Jesus Rodriguez Nieto, head of the pulmonology department. Service of the University Hospital of the Jiménez Diaz Foundation.

When the airways become inflamed, when activated, they can contract even more, making it difficult for air to flow into the lungs, resulting in symptoms such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, etc. Although these may vary from person to person. They may appear gradually or as sudden and recurring attacks.

Although the exact causes of asthma have not been established, there is a greater predisposition to developing asthma if there is a family history (genetic), any type of allergy, lung infections, occupational exposure, obesity, and environmental factors such as pollution.

So much so that “it is estimated that up to 13% of new annual cases of childhood asthma may be due to emissions of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that is formed mainly as a result of traffic emissions,” admits Dr. Mar Fernandez Nieto, an expert. Allergy Service of the Jimenez Diaz Foundation.

The Spanish Society for Clinical Immunology, Allergology and Childhood Asthma (SEICAP) confirms that air pollution is associated with the increase and severity of respiratory allergies in children and with the development of childhood asthma.

Some studies even note that there is an association between childhood hospitalizations for respiratory problems and levels of air pollutants, especially nitrogen dioxide.

Asthma in women is a growing problem

The data also show that asthma in women has increased in recent years, in particular by 12.6% among middle-aged people and women. According to a study published in Cell reports, the fact that women are twice as likely as men to suffer from asthma may be due to the effect of sex hormones on lung cells. Testosterone will interfere with immune cells associated with asthma symptoms such as inflammation.

Asthma is a disease that can be diagnosed and treated, but not cured.

When talking about the treatment of asthma, we find a double aspect. On the one hand, this disease has many treatment options based on “many inhalers and combinations of molecules with proven efficacy,” admits Dr. Fernandez Nieto. As the allergist explains, the availability of biologics “has changed the lives of patients with severe asthma, as it was possible to achieve remission of the disease.”

But it is useless to have all this therapeutic arsenal if there is no effective and efficient adherence to the treatment regimen. If the patient does not realize the need to follow the prescribed treatment, even if he feels well, this will lead to the reactivation of a controlled inflammatory process and its reappearance after a few days or weeks. Adherence to therapy prescribed by professionals is essential when it comes to disease control.

The Jiménez Diaz Foundation, which has a multidisciplinary department of asthma to treat this pathology with a comprehensive and specialized approach, and in search of the best treatment, is working on the development of biomarkers for the prediction, diagnosis and monitoring of asthma treatment.

In this sense, Dr. Victoria del Pozo Abejón, Specialist of the Immunology Service and Deputy Director of Research at the Institute of Medical Research of the Jiménez Diaz Foundation, and regarding the study of microRNAs as biomarkers states: “We are studying and working on the response of patients to these new treatments by closely observing the group that receives them and analyzing their clinical improvement, immunological aspects and quality of life.”

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