Asthma is a chronic disease

Chronic respiratory diseases


Bronchial asthma (usually only the abbreviated form asthma is used) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways in which those affected experience attacks of breathlessness due to a narrowing of the airways. Typically the bronchi are affected by this narrowing. The inflammatory process enables an increase in the sensitivity of the airways (bronchial hyperreactivity) to various external stimuli. A basic distinction is made between allergy-related (extrinsic asthma) and non-allergic asthma (intrinsic asthma), the former being far more common.

In all asthmatics, three circumstances come together that are characteristic of bronchial asthma:

  • The inflammatory reaction of the bronchial mucosa to external stimuli (e.g. allergens or infections) forms a central component of the disease. Mediated by inflammation mediators, white blood cells are attracted to the mucous membrane and this process increases the fluid content of the mucous membrane (edema).
  • Virtually all asthmatics have an increase in airway sensitivity (bronchial hyperreactivity)
  • In the bronchial tubes there is an increasing thickening of the mucous membrane and the secretion (secretion) of a thick mucus. The muscles that run around the bronchi tense up. They compress the bronchi and also narrow the airways (bronchoobstruction).

An allergy is a disease-causing intolerance to normally harmless components in our environment. This leads to an overreaction of the immune system. The most important allergenic substances (so-called allergens) in asthma include the excrement of house dust mites, animal hair (especially cat hair), pollen and mold spores. Contact with an allergen leads to a reaction of the respiratory tract in persons with a corresponding disposition.

So-called irritative asthma is one of the forms of non-allergic asthma. This occurs when chemical or physical stimuli act as a trigger for an attack. The physical triggers include, for example, cold air. Typical chemical triggers are cigarette smoke, road dust, exhaust gases and ozone.


COPD is a chronic, slow-progressing lung disease associated with narrowing of the airways (airway obstruction) due to chronic bronchitis and / or pulmonary emphysema (irreversible expansion of the alveoli). Drug interventions cannot completely reverse the airway obstruction. As a result, breathing is restricted.
Around 400,000 people in Switzerland suffer from COPD. In the cause of death statistics, COPD ranks fourth in the industrialized countries. Every second smoker over the age of 40 has chronic bronchitis.

The insufficient supply of oxygen affects the entire body: the cardiovascular system and muscles are impaired and are not fully efficient. In the case of a high degree of severity of the disease, organs can even be damaged. It is therefore extremely important that those affected pay attention to the early symptoms: sputum, cough, shortness of breath.

The possible consequences of COPD include:

  • Heart failure
  • Various other heart diseases
  • Lung failure
  • Isolation and depression due to the severely reduced performance

COPD is almost always caused by inhaling pollutants over a long period of time. In addition to smokers, painters, carpenters and farmers are also often affected.