Michelle Badash, MS
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the airways. In some cases, it is also a chronic allergic condition.
The airways become swollen from inflammation and narrowed from muscle contractions. They also produce extra mucus. Episodes of worsening asthma called asthma attacks occur when the narrowing worsens.
During an asthma attack, symptoms may range from a mild whistling or hissing sound as you breathe to severe obstruction of the airways, potentially causing a life-threatening inability to breathe. Cough-variant asthma begins as persistent, chronic cough without shortness of breath. Although asthma can be serious, there are many ways to prevent and control symptoms.
The underlying cause of asthma is two part: 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 indoor and outdoor environments, called triggers, can make asthma symptoms worse and cause asthma attacks in people who have asthma.
Known asthma triggers include:
Asthma. American Lung Association website. Available at:
http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/asthma. Accessed August 14, 2015.
Asthma in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114449/Asthma-in-adults-and-adolescents. Updated July 22, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
Asthma in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T500326/Asthma-in-children. Updated July 8, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
Asthma exacerbation in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114076/Asthma-exacerbation-in-adults-and-adolescents. Updated September 30, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
Asthma exacerbation in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T241915/Asthma-exacerbation-in-children. Updated January 20, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology
website. Available at:
http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/asthma.aspx. Accessed August 14, 2015.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. Available at:
http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&sub=14. Accessed August 14, 2015.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/asthma/understanding/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed August 14, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
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