Asthma—Adult

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Definition

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the function and lining of the airways or tubes of the lungs. It narrows the airways and makes it difficult to breathe.
Inflamed Bronchus in the Lungs
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Causes

Asthma symptoms are caused by an increased sensitivity of the airways to certain triggers. The triggers cause the lining of the airways to swell and produce extra fluid called mucus. At the same time, the muscles around the outside of the airway tighten in response to the irritation. All of these reactions narrow the airways and make it difficult to breathe. This response is often referred to as an asthma attack.Possible triggers of an asthma attack in a person with asthma include:
  • Viral illness
  • Exercise
  • Cold weather
  • Sinusitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Sulfites, preservatives used in dried fruits and wine
  • Medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and beta-blockers
  • Exposure to irritants or allergens, including:
    • Cigarette smoke
    • Smoke from a wood-burning stove
    • Pet dander
    • Dust
    • Chemicals
    • Mold and mildew
    • Pollen
    • Smog or air pollution
    • Perfumed products

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of asthma include:
  • Regularly breathing in cigarette smoke, including second-hand smoke
  • Regularly breathing in industrial or agricultural chemicals
  • A family member who has asthma
  • History of bronchiolitis
  • History of multiple respiratory infections during childhood, especially less than 1 year old
  • Being overweight
  • History of wheezing or asthma as a child
  • Having allergies
  • Premature birth
  • Having a mother who smoked during pregnancy

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