Asthma Lexicon: Research Terms To Know

Good people are working hard to learn more about our disease. As we read about their good works, we come across certain terms. So, here I would like to list and define them. I will also give some examples as they pertain to asthma. So, that said, here we go!!!

Some pertinent research terms

Research. It’s when you do studies and search for facts.

Researchers. These are the people who perform the research. They usually begin their research by developing a hypothesis.

Hypothesis. It’s an educated guess. But, it’s made before any studies are done. It’s done before research results come it. It’s just a guess. It’s how research begins. You start by asking questions. You create a hypothesis. And then you determine whether or not to spend time and money to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

Nineteenth-century researchers created a hypothesis that asthma was all in your head. They believed it was a nervous disorder. A modern hypothesis is that asthma is caused by asthma genes. You may also have heard of the hygiene hypothesis, the norma-flora hypothesis, or the chlorine hypothesis. These are all educated guesses as to how modern society may be responsible for asthma.

Theory. It’s also an educated guess. But, it’s made based on available evidence. It’s made based on a review of the results or conclusions of studies. Keep in mind that a theory is not a fact. It is still not proven. But, it gives researchers something to continue aiming for. It gives them a reason to continue researching in a specific area.

For instance, based on many studies done by 19th-century researchers, they created a theory that asthma was all in your head. By 1930, there appeared to be so much evidence that asthma was listed as one of the seven psychosomatic diseases. This theory was so credible it was treated as a fact when it was not.

Researchers have now discovered over 100 asthma genes. So, a modern theory says that asthma is caused by asthma genes. So, this theory inspires researchers to continue searching for answers to either prove or disprove this theory.

Science. We could get more technical here. But, we’ll just say it’s when researchers look for facts. It’s when you perform studies and do research to search for facts. It usually begins by asking a question and forming a hypothesis. Once studies are done, theories are made. Eventually, if enough evidence is found, facts can be discovered.

Facts. Again, a theory is not a fact. Sometimes they are treated as facts, but they aren’t facts. A fact is something that is proven true by science.

We have to be careful not to think of theories as facts. I have a good example to show you why this is important. In the 19th century, and all the way to the 1950s and beyond, physicians treated the psychosomatic theory of asthma as a fact. This worked to the detriment of many asthmatics. Rather than getting the treatment they needed, they were treated with psychosomatic medicines. It also threw researchers off course. They eventually did get back on course, but it took a long time.

So, based on a review of the evidence, modern researchers believe asthma is not all in your head. They believe it is a real, physiological disease. It’s a fact that most asthmatics have some degree of underlying airway inflammation. It’s a fact that this makes airways twitchy and hypersensitive to asthma triggers.

What to make of this? So, game on! Researchers are working hard. They have created many educated guesses, and they are working hard to prove whether they are indeed facts or myths to be cast aside.

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