If you or someone you know has asthma, you’re well aware of how allergens in the atmosphere and other things can trigger an attack. Did you also know that your immune system may be a culprit as well? This article will explore the role of the immune system in asthma.
The immune system is a self-defense mechanism your body will automatically call upon when it is under attack by something. It kicks in and does what it is designed to do in order to make you well again. There are many times your immune system is working and you don’t even know it because you have no outward signs or symptoms that would indicate to you that something is wrong, but did you know that this very system that is supposed to protect and heal you may also cause your asthma to worsen? Here’s what’s happening when this occurs.
Without going into a bunch of technical medical lingo or terms, when your immune system senses there is something in your body you need protection from, it automatically kicks in and prepares itself for battle.
This occurs as your body stimulates a variety of immune cells which will do the attacking. It’s during this early pre-attack phase that your body may not show signs of the infection but you may experience symptoms much as you would were you having an asthma attack. During this first exposure to the allergen, your immune system will go on to fight it off and thus protect you from it. When you are re-exposed to the same allergen your immune system will react again and you’ll feel worsening asthma symptoms as your body overreacts to the allergen.
Your immune system will release mediators that serve to ward off the foreign attacker. The same mediators have chemicals that damage the lung, causing inflammation which triggers the asthmatic reaction. You may experience wheezing, coughing or feel as if you can’t take a deep breath, as your airways begin to swell and narrow.
This reaction to your immune system preparing for battle can be controlled with medication in a number of forms. This could include an inhaler or medication or a combination of both that is monitored by your doctor.
As testing and technology advances, doctors may better understand the role of the immune system in asthma, and as such, a better and easier way of controlling these asthmatic reactions may be discovered.