What is Asthma?
When you breathe, air passes through your nose and down your throat into your lungs. Inside your lungs are branching tubes called airways. With asthma, the airways are often swollen and red (or inflamed). This makes them extra sensitive to things that you are exposed to in the environment every day or asthma “triggers”. A trigger could be a cold, the weather, or things in the environment, such as dust, chemicals, smoke and pet dander.
When someone with asthma breathes in a trigger, the insides of the airways make extra mucus and swell even more. This narrows the space for the air to move in and out of the lungs. The muscles that wrap around your airways can also tighten, making breathing even harder. When that happens, it’s called an asthma flare-up, asthma episode or asthma “attack”.
Asthma can start at any age. Sometimes, people have asthma when they are very young and as their lungs develop, the symptoms go away. But, there is a possibility that it will come back later in life. Sometimes, people get asthma for the first time when they are older.
What Causes Asthma?
The exact cause of asthma is not known. Asthma tends to run in families and may be inherited, but environmental factors may also play a key role. Scientists continue to explore what causes asthma, but we do know that these factors play an important role in the development of asthma:
· Genetics. Asthma tends to runs in families. Genetics plays an important role in causing asthma. If your mom or dad have asthma, then you are more likely to have asthma too.
· Allergies. Some people are more likely to develop allergies than others, especially if your mom or dad had allergies. Certain allergies are linked to people who get asthma.
· Respiratory Infections. As the lungs develop in infancy and early childhood, certain respiratory infections have been shown to cause inflammation and damage the lung tissue. The damage that is caused in infancy or early childhood can impact lung function long-term.
· Environment. Contact with allergens, certain irritants, or exposure to viral infections as an infant or in early childhood when the immune system in developing have been linked to developing asthma. Irritants and air pollution may also play a significant role in adult-onset asthma.
Is Asthma Serious?
Yes. Asthma is a serious health problem. The good news is that it can be successfully treated. People with asthma can live normal, productive lives. It’s important to find a health care provider that you trust and feel comfortable visiting on a regular basis. Your health care provider will work with you to help you manage your disease. Without proper treatment, asthma can be extremely dangerous, even fatal.