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ASTHMA

Overview

Overview

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways. These changes can cause episodes of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and/or coughing.

Asthma is a manageable, but serious condition; if untreated asthma can lead to chronic airway obstruction that cannot be fully reversed. Even when controlled there is risk of sudden worsening of symptoms called an asthma attack or “flare up” (exacerbation). Asthma exacerbations may become severe enough to lead to hospitalization and in very rare cases, death.

Causes

There are a number of factors that worsen asthma but the “cause” of asthma is unknown; asthma may have a genetic cause and/or be caused by environmental exposures.

Risk Factors for Asthma:

  1. Race is a risk factor for asthma.

  2. Gender is also a risk factor for asthma with females out numbering males almost 2:1.

  3. Age—Asthma is more common in children than adults. Boys are more likely to have asthma than girls but women are more likely to have asthma compared to men.

  4. Family History—you are more likely to develop asthma if one of your biological parents has asthma

  5. Allergies—individuals with allergies to mold spores and dust mites are more likely to develop asthma.

  6. Exposure to smoke—children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy and exposure to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop asthma.

  7. Exposure to air pollution and toxic chemicals can also increase your risk of developing asthma.

  8. Obesity has recently been identified as a major risk factor for asthma and asthma is considered to more severe in this population.

  9. Viral infections—upper and lower respiratory tract infections

  10. Occupational Factors—exposure to compounds such as flour dust (bakery workers) and industrial chemicals.

  11. Stress and its alteration of the body’s immune system.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms are asthma include:

  • Wheezing

  • Chest discomfort

  • Shortness of breath

  • Cough especially at night or early in the morning

  • Inability to perform activities of daily living