Asthma

Understand Asthma, and its causes and symptoms.

Asthma

Overview

What is asthma?

Asthma is a common chronic respiratory condition in which the airways in your lungs narrow or swell (become inflamed) causing difficulty breathing, causing episodes of coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. It often starts in childhood, but it can also develop for the first time in adults.

Causes

There are several different types of asthma (allergic, non-allergic, nocturnal, occupational, exercise-induced, etc.). They may occur randomly or after exposure to a trigger. Here are some of the general causes of asthma and triggers to look out for:

  • Genetics: Asthma tends to run in families.
  • Environmental triggers such as air pollution, smoke, medications, chemicals, and weather conditions (cold air, humidity)
  • Allergic reaction to pollen, pet dander, dust mites
  • Chronic inflammation of the airways, which makes them overly sensitive and reactive to various triggers (hyperresponsiveness).
  • Infections such as colds or flu

Symptoms

Some people with asthma experience intermittent flare-ups while others have symptoms the majority of the time (persistent asthma). Persistent asthma symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the severity of symptoms. Symptoms may also be worse at certain times of the day, such as at night or early in the morning. In any case, here are some common asthma symptoms to look out for:

  • Wheezing—a high-pitched whistling sound that is typically heard when a person breathes out
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Tight chest or chest pain

Asthma attacks can be life threatening, so while asthma is highly manageable, any symptoms should be taken seriously.

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