The importance of inflammation
Inflammation, or swelling, is a normal response of the body to injury or infection. The blood flow increases to the affected site and cells rush in and ward off the offending problem. The healing process has begun. Usually, when the healing is complete, the inflammation subsides. Sometimes, the healing process causes scarring. The central issue in asthma, however, is that the inflammation does not resolve completely on its own. In the short term, this results in recurrent "attacks" of asthma. In the long term, it may lead to permanent thickening of the bronchial walls, called airway "remodeling." If this occurs, the narrowing of the bronchial tubes may become irreversible and poorly responsive to medications. When this fixed obstruction to airflow develops, asthma is then classified in the group of lung conditions known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Therefore, the goals of asthma treatment are: (1) in the short term, to control airway inflammation in order to reduce the reactivity of the airways; and (2) in the long term, to prevent airway remodeling.
The hallmark of managing asthma is the prevention and treatment of airway inflammation. It is also likely that control of the inflammation will prevent airway remodeling and thereby prevent permanent loss of lung function.
Various triggers in susceptible individuals result in airway inflammation. Prolonged inflammation induces a state of airway hyperreactivity, which might progress to airway remodeling unless treated effectively.