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Asthma is a disease of inflammation caused by the actions of inflammatory cells such as mast cells, eosinophils, neutrophils, T- lymphocytes, epithelial cells, and macrophages. Inflammation of the airways produces the classic symptoms of asthma: coughing, wheezing, chest-tightening, and difficulty breathing.
These molecules stimulate mucus production, which clog airways and make it hard to breathe. Inflammatory molecules also cause changes in blood vessel linings and in the structure of the smooth muscle of the airway vessels. In general, these inflammatory molecules appear to create "jittery" lungs that are too responsive and tend to overreact to various forms of stimuli.
Because of the prominent role of inflammation in
asthma, medicines that block inflammation can be effective asthma treatments.
Anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat asthma include certain forms of
steroid molecules called inhaled corticosteroids and a relatively new
class of drugs call leukotriene inhibitors (for example, Accolate®
and Singulair®). As their name suggests, these drugs block the production
of inflammatory leukotrienes, and help to minimize the biological effects
of leukotrienes that attract eosinophils, crimping airway vessels, and
producing excess mucus.