What Is a Basophil?

Basophil. "Blausen 0077 Basophil" by BruceBlaus.

Definition: Basophils are part of your immune system that normally protects your body from infection, but can also be partly responsible for your asthma symptoms. Basophils are a type of white blood cell that are involved in inflammatory reactions in your body, especially those related to allergies and asthma. When stimulated, basophils release histamine and other enzymes that can lead to inflammation, bronchoconstriction, and asthma symptoms.

When you are exposed to allergens such as molds or animal dander, an IgE antibody binds to the allergen and stimulates the basophils to release histamine. Classic asthma symptoms follow the release of histamine.

Basophils and the Pathophysiology of Asthma

Basophils are part of the pathophysiology of asthma and contribute to changes like inflammation and bronchoconstriction that lead to asthma symptoms. The term pathophysiology comes from the two Greek stems: 1) Pathos- meaning "suffering or disease, and 2) Physiologia- that combines physis meaning "nature" plus logos meaning "study." Thus, asthma pathophysiology is the study the underlying processes that lead to asthma symptoms and complications of the disease.

Basophils are one cells that increase in numbers and cause changes in the lungs that lead to symptoms. As part of the pathophysiology of asthma, basophils lead to processes that cause:

  • Increased Mucus: Irritation and inflammation in the lungs leads to production of cells that produce mucus. Thick mucus clogs the airways of your lung and makes it more difficult to breathe and increases coughing.
  • Inflammation and Swelling: When the airways of your lungs are exposed to triggers and irritants, the lungs swell in response.
    • Muscle Tightening: Smooth muscles in your airways tighten and narrow in response to your asthma attack, the airways become smaller. When the airways narrow it becomes more difficult to breathe.

    Symptoms may occur quickly or may develop over a longer period of time. These symptoms include:

    With appropriate treatment with targets many of the changes that are caused by basophils, progression of asthma and the long term complications may be prevented. Over time poorly controlled asthma leads to remodeling and may lead to permanent changes or damage to the lungs. Poor control primarily results from inadequate treatment-- either not being prescribed enough medication to control the changes seen in the pathophysiology of asthma or not adhering to your treatment regimen as prescribed.

    All of the following topics can be considered part of asthma pathophysiology:

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