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What is Asthma?

Updated on August 1, 2012
Inflammation of the Air Passages
Inflammation of the Air Passages

Allergens in the Environment

Common allergens
Common allergens

Chronic Respiratory Condition


Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by inflammation of the air passages in the lungs. Inflammation causes the air passages to narrow and secrete mucus. This condition makes sufferers of asthma extremely sensitive to environmental stimuli, such as air pollutants, cold air, pollen, and several other allergens. An asthma attack usually occurs when allergens enter the respiratory system. An asthma attack may last from a few minutes to up to an hour or even days.

In people suffering from asthma, the cells in the lung airways release a set of chemicals which cause the symptoms of an asthma attack. The chemicals released by the cells cause excessive leaks of fluids from the blood vessels, tightening the muscles surrounding the airways and over producing mucus. Inflammation of the airways is a natural response of the body to a disturbance to its natural balance. Stress, allergies, viral infections, cigarette smoke or exercise can all cause inflammation.

Diagnosing Asthma

Spirometry Test
Spirometry Test

The Symptoms


The symptoms related to asthma include, wheezing sound while breathing, pressure in the chest, difficulty breathing, and coughing. An asthma sufferer may also present symptoms of anxiety and get a little confused. If while going through an asthma attack, a sufferer begins to acquire a bluish color of skin, that´s a sign that he/she is lacking oxygen in the lungs and needs prompt treatment.

There are several methods utilized for the diagnosis of asthma, among which include a spirometry test that measures how fast the air is exhaled and the quantity or air maintained inside the lungs. Other methods include allergy skin testing which confirms the probable allergen producing the condition; and a blood test which can demonstrate how responsive an individual is to an allergen.

Treating Asthma


There are treatments that can help control the incidence and ease the symptoms of an asthma attack. The swelling and mucus production inside the walls of the airways can be control by using inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) which are used to deliver the medication to the cells in the lungs. Other medicaments for the treatment of asthma include bronchodilators which are known to have an immediate anti-inflammatory effect.

The best way to prevent asthma is to avoid all possible contact to allergens (dust particles, pollen, smoke, industrial chemicals, etc.). It is recommended to keep the air clean inside the house and to avoid using humidifiers. Asthmatics should avoid contact with animal fur; quit smoking or stay away from smokers; exercise a minimum and stay away from pollutants in the air.

Although the majority of asthmatics are able to respond positively to treatments and medications, there exist some possible side effects that need to be discussed with a health care professional. If you or any member of your family is experiencing asthma symptoms, visit your health care provider right away.

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    Glad it helped you! 6 years ago

    I`m glad you found the article useful.

  • Hezekiah profile image

    Hezekiah 6 years ago from Japan

    Interesting, I used to be Asthmatic (from age 26) and the doctor kept giving me a blue quick relief inhaler. It wasn't untill he suggested the bigger circular power inhaler, my Asthema went away, strange.