Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the airways.
The airways become swollen and narrowed and they produce extra mucus. Episodes of worsening asthma (called asthma attacks) occur when the the narrowing worsens.
Inflamed Bronchus in the Lungs
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
During an asthma attack, symptoms may range from mild wheezing (whistling or hissing sound as you breathe) to severe obstruction of the airways, potentially causing a life-threatening inability to breathe. Cough-variant asthma manifests as persistent, chronic cough without shortness of breath. Although asthma can be very serious, there are many ways to prevent and control symptoms.
The underlying cause of asthma is two-fold: 1) inflammation in the lining of the lung, and 2) structural changes in the lung due to inflammation and narrowing of air passages. Factors in the environment (both indoors and outdoors), called triggers, can make asthma symptoms worse and cause asthma attacks in people who have asthma.
Known asthma triggers include:
- Animal dander (fine scales from skin, hair, or feathers)
- Dust mites
- Viral infections of the respiratory tract
- Strong odors or sprays
- Chemicals (including preservatives containing sulfites and dyes which are in many foods)
- Air pollutants (especially ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide)
- Changing weather conditions
- Tobacco smoke or wood smoke
- Drugs (including aspirin and other over-the-counter painkillers in individuals with a special type of asthma)
- Exercise (especially when exertion occurs in a cold environment)
- Emotional stress
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. Available at:
http://www.aafa.org/. Accessed September 14, 2012.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.