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Millions of Americans suffer from asthma, which is a lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. While there is no cure for the condition, it can be managed and treated. Asthma is a chronic disease and it can be serious or life-threatening, but the more a person learns and becomes educated about the disease the better their life will be.
What Is Asthma?
When a person breathes, air passes through the nose, down into the throat and enters the lungs. Inside the lungs are branching airways and with asthma these can become inflamed and swollen. This makes a person extra sensitive to things that they are exposed to in the environment. Each person has triggers which are something like the cold, the weather or environmental elements such as dust, chemicals, smoke and pet dander. Triggers can bring on an asthma attack and it results in airway swelling and extra mucus formation.
Asthma can start at any age and some people have it when they are very young. Asthma can show up and the symptoms can go away, but return later in life. Some people get asthma for the very first time as an adult.
Causes Of Asthma
The precise cause of asthma is unknown, but it does tend to run in families and may be inherited. Other things which could cause asthma include environmental factors. Scientists continue to explore what could cause asthma, but there are certain things that can play a role into its development and these include:
- Respiratory infections: As the lungs develop during infancy and early childhood, certain types of infections have been proven to cause inflammation and damage to the lung tissue. This damage can result in a weakened immune system that leads to asthma.
- Genetics: The disease tends to run in families. Genetics and heredity play an important role in causing asthma. If a child’s parents have asthma it means they have a higher than average risk of developing it.
- Environment: Having contact with allergens, pollutants or being exposed to viral infections as a baby or in early childhood when the immune system is developing has been linked to asthma.
- Allergies: Allergies tend to run in families and certain ones can be directly linked to people who get asthma.
There are many complications a person can experience with asthma. The symptoms of the disease can interfere with work, sleep or recreational activities. A person could miss work or school due to asthma flare-ups. The permanent narrowing of the airways can affect how well someone is able to breathe. Additionally, there may be emergency room visits and hospital stays due to severe asthma attacks and there could be side effects from some of the medications a person must take to stabilize their asthma.
In order to rule out other conditions like a respiratory infection or a pulmonary disorder, a physician will perform a physical examination and ask a person about their signs and symptoms and any other possible health problems. However, it is impossible to diagnose asthma strictly based on a physical examination.