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What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that causes symptoms like shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing and wheezing. Asthma causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which leads to limited airflow and difficulty breathing.

The airways of our lungs are surrounded by muscles and contain mucous glands. These muscles are normally relaxed, but if you have asthma, they are often sensitive and inflamed.

When people with asthma encounter triggers, these muscles react by tightening even more, the lining of the airways swell and the airways can fill up with mucus. This makes breathing very difficult and leads to asthma symptoms or asthma exacerbation, also known as an asthma attack.

What are the symptoms?

Asthma can be different for everyone. Asthma symptoms can also vary over time, with few or no symptoms when asthma is well controlled. The common signs and symptoms of poorly controlled asthma include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Regular coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Increased mucus production
  • Trouble sleeping because of breathing difficulty
  • Being unable to take part in physical activities without breathing difficulty

These symptoms can occur slowly over hours or days, or they can come on as sudden, recurring attacks after which the symptoms can persist for some time before disappearing. If left untreated, asthma can cause permanent structural changes in your airways called-airway remodelling-which is why it is important to get your asthma under control and keep treating it over the long term.

There is currently no cure for asthma, but with proper treatment, it can be managed.

What is an asthma trigger?

A trigger is anything that irritates your airways. Asthma is caused by two types of triggers.

  • Allergic trigger: cause allergic reactions. Allergic triggers include things like dust mites, pollens, moulds, pet dander,
  • Non-allergic trigger: are usually irritants. Non-allergic triggers include things like smoke, cold air, certain air pollutants, intense emotions

Learn more about different types of asthma triggers and how to manage them.

Who gets asthma?

Asthma affects 5-10% of the population or an estimated 23.4 million persons, including 7 million children. The overall prevalence rate of exercise-induced bronchospasm is 3-10% of the general population if persons who do not have asthma or allergy are excluded, but the rate increases to 12-15% of the general population if patients with underlying asthma are included.

Asthma affects an estimated 300 million individuals worldwide. Annually, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 15 million disability-adjusted life-years are lost and 250,000 asthma deaths are reported worldwide.

Asthma is not contagious. Its cause is still largely unknown, but researchers have determined that asthma can be caused by both hereditary and environmental factors.

Just because you have a parent with asthma (or an allergy) does not mean you will have it, too. If one or both of your parents has asthma and/or allergies, it's more likely that you will develop them. Researchers aren't yet sure exactly why this is.

Do You Need Any Asthma Help?

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