Asthma Glossary

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Tags: Asthma

Acquired: Anything that is not present at birth but develops some time later. In medicine, the word “acquired” implies “new” or “added.” An acquired condition is “new” in the sense that it is not genetic (inherited) and “added” in the sense that was not present at birth.

Adenovirus: A group of viruses responsible for a spectrum of respiratory disease as well as infection of the stomach/intestine (gastroenteritis), eyes (conjunctivitis), and bladder (cystitis) and rash. Adenovirus respiratory diseases include a form of the Asthma, pneumonia, croup, and bronchitis. Patients with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to severe complications of adenovirus infection. Acute respiratory disease (ARD), a disorder first recognized among military recruits during World War II, can be caused by adenovirus infections under conditions of crowding and stress.

Allergen: a substance (such as a food or pollen) that your body perceives as dangerous and can cause an allergic reaction.

Allergy: an exaggerated response to a substance or condition produced by the release of histamine or histamine-like substances in affected cells.

Aloe vera: A short-stemmed plant with thick leaves with a soothing, viscous juice; leaves develop spiny margins with maturity; native to Mediterranean region; grown widely in tropics and as houseplants.

Alveoli: thin-walled, small sacs located at the ends of the smallest airways in the lungs where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place.

Antibiotic: medication used to treat infection caused by bacteria. Antibiotics do not protect against viruses and do not prevent the common cold.

Anticholinergics: (also called cholinergic blockers or “maintenance” bronchodilators). This type of medicine relaxes the muscle bands that tighten around the airways. This action opens the airways, letting more air out of the lungs to improve breathing. Anticholinergics also help clear mucus from the lungs.

Antihistamine: medication that stops the action of histamine, which causes symptoms of allergy such as itching and swelling.

Antihistamines: Drugs that combat the histamine released during an allergic reaction by blocking the action of the histamine on the tissue. Since antihistamines do not stop the formation of histamine or the conflict between the antibody and antigen, they only protect tissues from some of the effects of an allergic reaction. Antihistamines often cause mouth dryness and sleepiness. The “non sedating” antihistamines may be less effective.

Anti-inflammatory: medication that reduces inflammation (swelling in the airway and mucus production).

Asthma: a disease of the airways or branches of the lung (bronchial tubes) that carry air in and out of the lungs. Asthma causes the airways to narrow, the lining of the airways to swell and the cells that line the airways to produce more mucus. These changes make breathing difficult and cause a feeling of not getting enough air into the lungs. Common symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and excess mucus production.

Asthma trigger: anything that brings on coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, and other symptoms in a person with asthma. Some common triggers include colds, smoke, cold air, exercise, and certain things that cause allergic reactions, such as dust mites or pollen.

Bacteria: Single-celled microorganisms which can exist either as independent (free-living) organisms or as parasites (dependent upon another organism for life). They are infectious organisms that may cause sinusitis, bronchitis, or pneumonia.

Beta2-agonists: a bronchodilator medication that opens the airways of the lung by relaxing the muscles around the airways that have tightened (bronchospasm). These medications may be short acting (quick relief) or long acting (control) medications. Short acting beta2 agonists are the drugs used to relieve asthma symptoms when they occur.
Breath sounds: lung sounds heard through a stethoscope.

Breathing rate: the number of breaths per minute.

Bronchial tubes: airways in the lung that branch from the trachea (windpipe).

Bronchioles: the smallest branches of the airways in the lungs. They connect to the alveoli (air sacs).
Bronchodilator: a drug that relaxes the muscle bands that tighten around the airways. Bronchodilators can also help clear mucus from the lungs.

Bronchospasm: the tightening of the muscle bands that surround the airways, causing the airways to narrow.
Buffer: A buffer is a solution containing either a weak acid and its salt or a weak base and its salt, which is resistant to changes in pH.

Carbon dioxide: a colorless, odorless gas that is formed in the tissues and is delivered to the lungs to be exhaled.

Chest pain: There are many causes of chest pain. One is angina which results from inadequate oxygen supply to the heart muscle. Angina can be caused by coronary artery disease or spasm of the coronary arteries. Chest pain can also be due to a heart attack (coronary occlusion) and other important diseases such as, for example, dissection of the aorta and a pulmonary embolism. Do not try to ignore chest pain and “work (or play) though it.” Chest pain is a warning to seek medical attention.

Chills: Feelings of coldness accompanied by shivering. Chills may develop after exposure to a cold environment or may accompany a fever.

Chronic disease: a disease that can be controlled, but not cured.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Any disorder that persistently obstructs bronchial airflow. COPD mainly involves two related diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which lead to the obstruction of airflow through the respiratory system. The condition is generally permanent and worsens over time.

Cilia: hair-like structures that line the airways in the lungs and help to clean out the airways.

Citric acid: A colorless translucent crystalline acid, principally derived by fermentation of carbohydrates or from lemon, lime, and pineapple juices.

Clinical trials: research programs conducted with patients to evaluate a new medical treatment, drug, or device. The purpose of clinical trials is to find new and improved methods of treating different diseases and special conditions.

Common cold: A viral upper respiratory tract infection. This contagious illness can be caused by many different types of viruses, and it is impossible for the body to build up resistance to all of them. This makes colds a frequent and recurring problem.

Conchae: Any turbinate bone, especially in the nose.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Congestion: An abnormal or excessive accumulation of a bodily fluid. Examples include nasal congestion (excess mucus and secretions in the air passages of the nose) seen with an Asthma and congestion of blood in the lower extremities seen with some types of heart failure.

Coronavirus: One of a group of viruses, which look like a corona (halo) when viewed under an electron microscope. This appearance is due to an array of surface projections.

Discharge: The flow of fluid from a part of the body, such as the nose.

Eustachian tube: The tube that runs from the middle ear to the nasopharynx. Eustachian tube protects, aerates and drains the middle ear. Blockage of the Eustachian tube leads to inflammation of the middle ear. The Eustachian tube is also called the otopharyngeal tube (because it connects the ear to the pharynx) and the auditory tube (and in Latin, the tuba acustica, tuba auditiva, and tuba auditoria).

Fatigue: A condition characterized by a reduced work capacity and efficiency of accomplishment, usually accompanied by tiredness. Fatigue can come on suddenly or be chronic and persist.

Flu: Short for influenza. The flu is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract. Most people who get the flu recover completely in 1 to 2 weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia. Much of the illness and death caused by influenza can be prevented by annual influenza vaccination.

Hoarseness: Hoarseness is a term referring to abnormal voice changes. Hoarseness may be manifested as a voice that sounds breathy, strained, rough, raspy, or a voice that has higher or lower pitch. There are many causes of hoarseness, including viral laryngitis, vocal cord nodules, laryngeal papillomas, gastroesophageal reflux-related laryngitis, and environmental irritants (such as tobacco smoking). An accumulation of fluid in the vocal cords associated with hoarseness has been termed Reinke’s edema. Reinke’s edema may occur as a result of cigarette smoking or voice abuse (prolonged or extended talking or shouting). Rarely, hoarseness results from serious conditions such as cancers of the head and neck region.

Ibuprofen: A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) commonly used to treat pain, swelling, and fever. Common brand names for Ibuprofen include Advil®, Motrin®, and Nuprin®.

Incubation period: In medicine, the time from initial exposure to an infectious agent till the appearance of the first signs and symptoms of the disease.

Isotonic: When a solution has the same osmotic pressure (concentration) as serum, which has a normal value of osmolality between 270–300 mOsm/kg water. Hypertonic: osmolality is higher than 300 mOsm/kg water; Hypotonic: osmolality is lower than 270 mOsm/kg water. See also “osmolality.” Lung function tests are a way to check how well your lungs are working. Doctors use lung function tests to diagnose asthma and to monitor its progression. Monitoring asthma with lung function tests is helpful because you may not always be able to tell — just from your symptoms — whether or not your asthma is under control. In most cases, you have lung function tests in an exam room that contains special devices to measure lung function. A specially trained respiratory therapist or technician…

Mucus: A thick slippery fluid produced by the membranes lining certain organs such as the nose, mouth, throat, and vagina. Mucus is the Latin word for “a semifluid, slimy discharge from the nose.” Note that mucus is a noun while the adjective is mucous.

Nasal cavity: The vaulted chamber that lies between the floor of the cranium and the roof of the mouth of higher vertebrates extending from the external nares to the pharynx, being enclosed by bone or cartilage and usually incompletely divided into lateral halves by the septum of the nose, and having its walls lined with mucous membrane that is rich in venous plexuses and ciliated in the lower part which forms the beginning of the respiratory passage and warms and filters the inhaled air and that is modified as sensory epithelium in the upper olfactory part.

Nasal mucus: A slippery, sometimes thick, fluid produced by the membranes lining the nose. Excessive nasal mucus underlies a runny nose.

Onset: In medicine, the first appearance of the signs or symptoms of an illness. See also “incubation period.”

Osmolality: The concentration of a solution in terms of osmoles of solutes per kilogram of solvent. Serum osmolality is a measure of the number of dissolved particles per unit of water in serum. The fewer the particles of solute in proportion to the number of units of water (solvent), the less concentrated the solution. Measurement of the serum osmolality indicates the hydration status within the cells because the osmotic equilibrium is constantly maintained on both sides of the cell membrane. Water moves freely back and forth across the membrane in response to the osmolar pressure being exerted by the molecules of solute in the intracellular and extracellular fluids. The normal value for serum osmolality is 270–300 mOsm/kg water. See also “isotonic.”

Over-the-counter (OTC): A drug or a medical device that can be purchased by the consumer without a physician’s prescription.

Parainfluenza: A disease due to an acute respiratory infection caused by a parainfluenza virus, usually occurring in children. It may present as anything from a relatively mild influenza-like illness to bronchitis, croup, and pneumonia.

Pathogenesis: The development of a disease. The origin of a disease and the chain of events leading to that disease.

Pulmonary: Having to do with the lungs.

Resistance: Opposition or the ability to withstand something. For example, some forms of staphylococcus are resistant to treatment with antibiotics.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): A virus that causes mild respiratory infections, colds, and coughs in adults, but can produce severe respiratory problems, including bronchitis and pneumonia in young children. Patients with compromised immune, cardiac or pulmonary systems are at high risk.

Runny nose: Rhinorrhea is the medical term for this common problem. From the Greek words “rhinos” meaning “of the nose” and “rhoia” meaning “a flowing.”

Saline: Relating to salt. As an adjective, “saline” means “containing salt.” As a noun, “saline” is a salt solution, often adjusted to the normal salinity of the human body.

Sea salt: It is produced by the evaporation of sea water and that contains sodium chloride and trace elements such as sulfur, magnesium, zinc, potassium, calcium, and iron.

Secretion: A process in which a gland or tissue produces a biochemical and releases it for use by the organism or for excretion.

Sinus: An air-filled cavity in a dense portion of a skull bone. There are four pairs of sinuses: the frontal sinuses, behind the forehead; the maxillary sinuses, behind the cheeks; the sphenoid sinuses, behind the maxillary sinuses; and the ethmoid sinuses, behind the eyes. They are lined by mucous-secreting cells.

Sinusitis: Inflammation of the membrane lining the sinuses, which are directly connected to the nasal cavities.
Strep throat: Strep throat is an infection caused by a type of bacteria called streptococcus, which can lead to serious complications if not adequately treated.

Strep: Very commonly used shortened form of Streptococcus, a very common and important group of bacteria.
Syndrome: A set of signs and symptoms that tend to occur together and which reflect the presence of a particular disease or an increased chance of developing a particular disease.

TCID50: The 50 percent viral tissue culture infectious dose; the level of viruses needed to cause an infection in half of the inoculated cells.

Turbinate: A bone in the nose that is situated along the side wall of the nose and is covered by mucous membrane.
Vaccine: A preparation of a weakened or killed pathogen (bacterium or virus), or of a portion of the pathogen’s structure that, when administered through injection or inhalation, stimulates antibody production or cellular immunity against the pathogen. Since the pathogen used is either weakened or killed, or just a portion of the full structure, it is incapable of causing severe infection, though it may cause side effects.

Virus: An infectious agent smaller than a bacterium, which cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to stay alive and to replicate itself.

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