Learning More About Asthma

Asthma is a chronic, or life long, disease that can be serious—even life threatening. There is no cure for asthma. The good news is that it can be managed so you can live a normal, healthy life. The more you can learn about asthma, the better you and your loved ones can manage living with this disease, making the most of every day, and maintaining the quality of life that is important to you.

Asthma is a lung disease that makes it harder to move air in and out of your lungs. There are three things that you should know about asthma:

  1. Asthma is chronic. In other words, you live with it every day.
  2. It can be serious – even life threatening.
  3. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed so you live a normal, healthy life.

What is Asthma?

When you breathe, air passes through your nose and down your throat into your lungs. Inside your lungs are branching tubes called airways. With asthma, the airways are often swollen and red (or inflamed). This makes them extra sensitive to things that you are exposed to in the environment every day or asthma “triggers”. A trigger could be a cold, the weather, or things in the environment, such as dust, chemicals, smoke and pet dander.

When someone with asthma breathes in a trigger, the insides of the airways make extra mucus and swell even more. This narrows the space for the air to move in and out of the lungs. The muscles that wrap around your airways can also tighten, making breathing even harder. When that happens, it’s called an asthma flare-up, asthma episode or asthma “attack”.

Asthma can start at any age. Sometimes, people have asthma when they are very young and as their lungs develop, the symptoms go away. But, there is a possibility that it will come back later in life. Sometimes, people get asthma for the first time when they are older.

If you are a person living with asthma, a friend, family member, co-worker, or frontline healthcare professional, take a moment to learn more about asthma by participating in our new online learning module, Asthma Basics. » More

What Causes Asthma?

The exact cause of asthma is not known. Asthma tends to run in families and may be inherited, but environmental factors may also play a key role. Scientists continue to explore what causes asthma, but we do know that these factors play an important role in the development of asthma:

  • Genetics. Asthma tends to runs in families. Genetics plays an important role in causing asthma.If your mom or dad have asthma, then you are more likely to have asthma too.
  • Allergies. Some people are more likely to develop allergies than others, especially if your mom or dad had allergies. Certain allergies are linked to people who get asthma.
  • Respiratory Infections. As the lungs develop in infancy and early childhood, certain respiratory infections have been shown to cause inflammation and damage the lung tissue. The damage that is caused in infancy or early childhood can impact lung function long-term.
  • Environment. Contact with allergens, certain irritants, or exposure to viral infections as an infant or in early childhood when the immune system in developing have been linked to developing asthma. Irritants and air pollution may also play a significant role in adult-onset asthma.

Is Asthma Serious?

Yes. Asthma is a serious health problem. The good news is that it can be successfully treated. People with asthma can live normal, productive lives. It’s important to find a health care provider that you trust and feel comfortable visiting on a regular basis. Your health care provider will work with you to help you manage your disease. Without proper treatment, asthma can be extremely dangerous, even fatal.

Asthma Flare-Ups

After an asthma flare-up, you will probably feel tired. For several days after an episode, you are at increased risk of having another flare-up. For the next several days after a flare-up, be sure to:

  • Avoid your asthma triggers
  • Monitor your symptoms or check you airways using a peak flow meter

Poor asthma management can lead to airway remodeling. Airway remodeling is a serious condition that happens when asthma is untreated or poorly managed. The lungs become scarred, asthma medicines do not work as well, and less air is able to move through the airways. Airway remodeling does not have to happen. Stick to an asthma action plan. Take control of your asthma!

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Sysmptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Find out how asthma is diagnosed, the types of symptoms that people with asthma experience when asthma in not well controlled, and learn more about treatment options. » More

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Protecting Your Lungs

Your body has a natural defense system designed to protect the lungs. Learn what you can do to help prevent bacteria, viruses, tobacco smoke and air pollution from causing harm. » More