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Asthma: What is It and Why does It Happen?

Asthma. You have a classical situation here with news: a good one and a bad one. Ordinary, let’s start with the bad one – asthma can not be cured. But the good news is that it can be controlled, and if it is all about some infrequent symptoms – you can live your active life!

What is asthma?

‘Asthma’ means "sharp breath" from Greek. This word as the medical condition has a long history, starting from 450 BC, when Hippocrates first mentioned it in his work. 

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. This is a condition which the airway occasionally constricts, becomes inflamed, and is lined with excessive amounts of mucus in order to response to one or more triggers – allergens.

How does it work?

Let’s have a glimpse on our respiratory system. How does asthma cause the problem? The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. The inflammation in your airways makes them very sensitive. Airways in person with asthma are swollen and narrow. If only you contact with some certain allergen - your airways tend to react very strongly to that irritating thing. The walls of your airways get narrower, thus causing less air to flow through to your lung tissue. It’s like you have not enough air to breathe. This is, actually, that you do not have enough space in your airways to give you as much air as you need. It makes you coughing, trouble breathing together with strange whistling sound while you breathe, and chest tightness. It happens at nights, in the early mornings and in stressful tuff situations.

Asthma attack

You asthma symptoms may become worse in certain situations, and then it is called an asthma attack. Airways are covered with the muscles, which tighten up during this attack. This results in narrowing the airways more and the inflammation increases. This causes the airways become more swollen and narrower, and the cells in the airways may produce more mucus than usual. This extra mucus and more narrowing of the airways causes less air to flow through and make it harder for a person to breathe.

These entire narrowing can varies from person to person. Some of them do not have a serious asthma attacks, some of them have airways so swollen and narrowed that they are nearly closed to the oxygen. These people can even die from such a severe asthma attack as they do not have enough oxygen for their vital organs.

What are the causes?

The condition of asthma could be called an asthma-like response to a certain thing that triggers it. What can trigger it? This is not an easy question. At least, the researchers do not fully understand yet this complex interaction of asthma factors. So, they tend to just name this mixture of not-well understood factors – causes of asthma. Thus, it is evident, that certain life factors (environmental and genetic) may increase the risk to affect asthma.

What are the ‘causes’ of asthma?

1.  Environment.

·   Poor air quality that is a result from traffic pollution and high ozone levels.

·   Smoking of you, your friend or neighbor. If you smoke while you are pregnant – it is associated with high risk of asthma prevalence and other respiratory infections.

·   Antibiotic use. It is better to say the whole panacea of using antibiotics now and then. Antibiotics modify gut flora, and thus the immune system. It makes you be more susceptible to development of asthma.

·   Viral respiratory infections at an early age.

·   Caesarean sections. It is found that children delivered by Caesarean section have a 20% increase in asthma prevalence compared to those who were born through vagina.

·   Psychological stress. Stress may influence asthma and other diseases by influencing the immune system (the researches on the topic are constantly growing).

2. Genetics. Nearly 100 genes have been associated with asthma in genetic association study. But it is proved that they are not associated with it under every condition. So, as it was said earlier, causes of asthma are too complex interactions, and further investigations are to be made in this field.

Though, you are more likely to develop asthma if it runs in your family. Or if you are sensitive to environmental allergens or irritants.

3. Complex Causes. Gene-Environment Interactions.

Why does it happen?

If you already have asthma an exposure to various allergens or irritants may trigger your asthma symptoms. You should know that list of things:

1.  ‘Something in the air’

  • This is different allergen: pollen, mold or animal danger.
  •  Cigarette smoke
  •  Perfumes, cosmetics, and cleaning solutions
  •  Scented products

2.  ‘Something on the ground’

  •   Cockroaches
  •   Dust mites, chalk dust

3.   Respiratory tract infections.

  • Colds, flu
  •   sinusitis
  • other viral infections

It all can trigger asthma in some people, especially in children.

4.  Weather.

Cold or dry air can sometimes trigger asthma symptoms in certain people, as can extreme heat or humidity (moist air).

5.  Exercise.

Different physical exertion as exercise, running.

6.  Other reasons (GERD, sulfites, girl’s periods, laughing, crying, or even yelling)

Between the attacks you may feel yourself rather well and then – bang – you have an attack. Some people may experience mild symptoms, as breath shortness.

How can I control asthma?

Controlling your asthma means working closely with your doctor. This means that:

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·  You know what things cause your asthma symptoms

·  You learn how to avoid those things in order not to irritate your airways

·   You have your asthma monitored by your doctor as frequent as you need it to control the condition, you see doctor regularly

·  You have your proscribed medicine in case of the attach and you know how to quickly respond to these signs

All these help you to live your life and to take part in all daily activities. Asthma should not keep you from doing what you love! Just follow your doctor recommendation and know your body. Good luck.

Valentyna Ant.

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