Asthma

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What is 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.

What causes asthma?

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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:

  • Family history of allergic conditions
  • Personal history of hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Viral respiratory illness, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), during childhood
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Obesity
  • Lower socioeconomic status
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/12/2014

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Asthma - Symptoms Question: What kind of asthma symptoms do you experience?
Asthma - Action Plan Question: Do you have an asthma action plan?
Asthma - Medications Question: Which medications do you use to control your asthma?
Asthma - Causes Question: Are family history, obesity, exposure to cigarette smoke, or other factors a cause of your asthma?
Asthma - Types Question: What type of asthma do you have? Please share your story.
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