Eosinophils: How These Little Cells Make Asthma Worse


Marie Cavuoto Petrizzo MD, FAAAAI

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Asthma is a chronic lung disease, which is characterized by airway inflammation and spasming (tightening). While we’re not sure of the exact cause of asthma, we do know that tiny cells called eosinophils may play a role, especially in patients with severe asthma. An eosinophil is one of the five types of white blood cells circulating in our blood. Eosinophils function as part of the body’s immune system. They play a major role in fighting infections, such as viral and parasitic infections, releasing chemicals toxic to these invaders. In doing this, eosinophils create inflammation. However, inflammation has a damaging effect when it comes to the lungs’ airways. Eosinophilia (i.e., high eosinophil numbers) can be associated with chronic sinusitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), allergies, and of course, asthma. In fact, eosinophilia is associated with more severe asthma and more frequent asthma attacks.

When asthma doesn't respond to consistent treatment, it's considered severe asthma. Watch this video for more severe asthma facts.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: May 12, 2017

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