Asthma is a disease of the lungs that causes the airways to become blocked or narrowed resulting in difficulty breathing. Nearly 20 million Americans are affected by this chronic disease. There is still much research that needs to be done to fully understand how to prevent, treat and cure asthma.
What Causes Asthma?
Asthma has a genetic origin and is a disease you are born with. Because you are born with it, the question isn’t “what causes asthma,” but rather “what causes asthma symptoms to appear?” People with asthma have airways that are sensitive to things that don’t bother other people. These things are called "triggers."
What Happens During an Asthma Episode?
During normal breathing, air can move in and out of the lungs through the airways very easily. But people with asthma have sensitive airways that can result in the following symptoms when exposed to triggers:
· The lining of the airways swell and become more inflamed
· Mucus clogs the airways
· Muscles tighten around the airways (bronchospasm)
These changes narrow the airways until breathing becomes difficult and stressful, like trying to breathe through a straw stuffed with cotton.
Treatment needs to be specific for each person because each case of asthma is different. However, there is one general rule that does apply – removing the triggers in your environment that can be removed. If this is not enough, you may need to try medication.
Revised: 11/03/09. Copyright © 2006 Clinical Research Associates of Tidewater. All rights reserved.