When you’re a newly diagnosed asthma patient you can feel overwhelmed. You become inundated with new information about how to live, how to take care of yourself, and how to recognize asthma signs and symptoms. Along with all this information, you also have to learn new words and definitions dealing with asthma. It’s very important to begin educating yourself, including learning new terms and what they mean. BellaOnline can help you.
Here is a glossary of common asthma lung terms to start you on your self-education asthma journey. Once you learn these terms you’ll have a basic understanding of the lungs.
Alveoli: plural of alveolus: are tiny sacs, in grape-like formations, at the very end of the bronchial system in the lungs. Alveoli are where blood is oxygenated with outside air, and where carbon dioxide is pushed out of the blood stream.
Bronchial tubes: or bronchi: are the main airways connected to the upper respiratory system (nose/sinuses/mouth), which carry oxygen to the lungs. The bronchial tubes branch out from the trachea and form two separate branches—one going to each lung. The bronchial tubes then connect to smaller branches (bronchioles), finally ending with the alveoli.
Bronchioles: the smallest airways in the lungs, branching out from the bronchial tubes in each lung, finally ending with the alveoli.
Bronchoconstriction: occurs when the muscles in the airways become tighter and tighter, making the airways narrow and/or close.
Cilia: or motile cilia: are tiny, hair-like structures, found in the respiratory system, i.e., in the nose, trachea, and the lungs. Cilia use a wave-like motion to “sweep” impurities, bacteria and viruses (trapped in the mucosal lining) from the airways.
Diaphragm: or also known as the thoracic diaphragm: is the muscle at the base of the lungs at the bottom of the rib cage. The diaphragm enables the lungs to function (via the suction mechanism) by causing oxygen to flow in during inhalation, and carbon dioxide to flow out during exhalation.
Dyspnea: also called air hunger: is shortness of breath. Asthma patients experience shortness of breath when their asthma symptoms begin to flare. Shortness of breath is caused when the airways begin to constrict or close.
Hyperventilation: or over-breathing: is breathing faster and/or deeper than normal. Asthma patients often hyperventilate when trying to compensate for lack of air during an asthma flare or attack.
Mucus: or sputum/phlegm: is a sticky, slimy substance produced by the body to protect and lubricate the body’s organs. Mucus is found in the respiratory system, and helps to trap harmful particles, bacteria and irritants. Mucus protects the airways from these harmful substances. Cilia help to remove the mucus from the body, however too much mucus can keep the cilia from moving. This causes a mucus buildup in the airways. This mucus buildup is common in asthma patients.
Trachea: also called the windpipe: the main airway, or tube, leading from the upper respiratory system (nose/mouth) to the bronchial tubes.
Wheezing: is a high-pitched whistling sound, produced by the lungs, when the airways are severely constricted.
Learning the proper lung terminology will help you to understand how the lungs work, and how asthma affects the lungs. Knowing proper lung terminology will also help you to better understand your doctor and health care providers.
Breathe easier by learning all you can about asthma and how it affects your lungs.