Asthma

  • Medical Author:
    Syed Shahzad Mustafa, MD

    After growing up in the Rochester area, Dr. Mustafa pursued his undergraduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and attended medical school at SUNY Buffalo. He then completed his internal medicine training at the University of Colorado and stayed in Denver to complete his fellowship training in allergy and clinical immunology at the University of Colorado, National Jewish Health, and Children's Hospital of Denver.

  • Medical Author: Allison Ramsey, MD
    Allison Ramsey, MD

    Dr. Allison Ramsey earned her undergraduate degree at Colgate University and her medical degree at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She completed her internal medicine training at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and remained at the university to complete her fellowship training in allergy and clinical immunology. Dr. Ramsey is board certified in internal medicine and allergy and immunology. Her professional interests include the treatment of drug allergy and eosinophilic disorders. She also enjoys teaching medical trainees. She is a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the New York State Allergy Society, and the Finger Lakes Allergy Society. In her personal life, her interests include exercise, especially running and horseback riding; and spending time with her husband and two children.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Asthma inhaler

Asthma Symptoms and Signs

Symptoms of asthma develop as a result of the narrowing and inflammation of the airways. Wheezing is a characteristic symptom of asthma, along with shortness of breath. Chest pain or tightness can accompany an asthma attack.

Asthma Related Symptoms and Signs

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness Of Breath
  • Cough

Quick GuideWhat is Asthma? Asthma Myths Debunked

What is Asthma? Asthma Myths Debunked

What is the definition of asthma?

Asthma is a complex clinical syndrome of chronic airway inflammation characterized by recurrent, reversible, airway obstruction. Airway inflammation also leads to airway hyperreactivity, which causes airways to narrow in response to various stimuli.

Asthma is a common chronic condition, affecting approximately 8%-10% of Americans, or an estimated 23 million Americans as of 2008. Asthma remains a leading cause of missed work days. It is responsible for 1.5 million emergency department visits annually and up to 500,000 hospitalizations. Over 3,300 Americans die annually from asthma. Furthermore, as is the case with other allergic conditions, such as eczema (atopic dermatitis), hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and food allergies, the prevalence of asthma appears to be on the rise.

Asthma vs. COPD

Asthma is characterized by reversible airway narrowing, whereas COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) typically has fixed airway narrowing. Some symptoms of COPD are similar to asthma, including wheezing, shortness of breath, and cough. The cough in COPD can be more productive of mucus than asthma, and patients with severe COPD may need oxygen supplementation. COPD is very often a result of cigarette smoke exposure, either direct or secondhand, although severe asthma can evolve to COPD over time. Medications used to treat COPD include inhaled corticosteroids, bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroid/bronchodilator combinations, long-acting muscarinic antagonists, and oral steroids. There is a newly described syndrome called asthma/COPD overlap syndrome that displays characteristics of both asthma and COPD. This is an area of medicine that needs further study.

What are risk factors and causes of asthma?

Asthma results from complex interactions between an individual's inherited genetic makeup and their interactions with the environment. The factors that cause a genetically predisposed individual to become asthmatic are poorly understood. The following are risk factors for asthma:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/17/2017

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