The word asthma has originated from an ancient Greek word meaning panting. Essentially asthma is a chronic and recurring inflammation of the air ways (bronchi) that results in obstruction of air flow. Asthma is very common all over the world, in all age groups. It may start in as early as months old baby to elder age group. Asthma is largely controllable and to an extent curable, depending on the stage and extent of the disease.
There is a decrease in the lumen of the air ways resulting from a two fold response to the allergens and other irritants. Primarily in a hyper reactive response, the smooth muscles in the airways constrict and narrow excessively. Followed by an inflammatory response where the immune system responds to the allergens by sending white blood cells and other immune factors to the airways. These inflammatory factors cause a swelling of the airways and also an increase in the mucus secretion thus causing symptoms like wheezing, cough and shortness of breath.
Children aged 2-12 years reported higher rates of asthma (15.7%) than adults aged 16 years and over (10.1%). In males, the prevalence of asthma was highest among children aged 2-12 years; in females, prevalence was highest among young adults aged 16-24 years. Asthma is also closely linked to allergies. Most, but not all, people with asthma have allergies. Children with a family history of allergy and asthma are more likely to have asthma.
The most important and distressing symptom is the breathlessness or sense of suffocation, which may be of varying intensity. Some patients may not have cough or mucus production (expectoration) at all.
Asthma has no single cause. It is caused my multiple factors, which can be divided in two groups:
Asthma is caused and maintained by more than one of the following causes:
Asthma has a tendency to recur and get chronic. It is often observed to be a life long disease like diabetes or high blood pressure.
One or more of the above factors lead to altered immunity which eventually leads to chronic asthma. It may be noted that the genetic tendency for asthma forms soil, leading to susceptibility to be affected by other external or internal trigger factors.
The list can be exhaustive though each person may have a different individual or a combination of triggering factors.
The following factors increase your chances of developing Asthma.