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Diseases » Asthma » Introduction
 

Asthma

Asthma: Introduction

Asthma is a chronic, ongoing lung disease marked by acute flare-ups or attacks of difficulty with breathing. It is a common disease that can happen at any age but most often occurs during childhood and can continue into adulthood. More than 6 million children and 22 million adults in the U.S. have the condition, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

Characteristics of asthma include inflammation of the airways in the lungs. These include the bronchioles, small hollow passageways that branch off the main airway from the mouth and nose. Air and oxygen pass through the bronchioles into the alveoli, tiny hollow structures in the lungs where oxygen is absorbed in to the bloodstream. In asthma, bronchioles and alveoli become inflamed, irritated and swollen, blocking the flow of air into the lungs.

The surrounding muscles react by tightening and further blocking the flow of oxygen into the lungs and bloodstream. The airway also begins to make more mucus than normal, which further blocks the airways and compounds the problem with the intake of air.

This process leads to the development of the hallmark symptoms of asthma: wheezing and shortness of breath. Complications of untreated or poorly treated asthma can be serious and even life-threatening. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of asthma.

Asthma is often associated with allergies, and most people with asthma also have allergies. In these people the disease is often known as allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma. Other types of asthma include occupational asthma, which is caused by breathing irritating or toxic chemicals work. Cough-variant asthma is a form of asthma in which a dry, irritating cough is the most prominent symptom.

People most at risk for developing asthma include young children who frequently experience colds or other respiratory infections, such as bronchitis. Other major risk factors include having eczema, an allergic skin condition, and having parents with asthma. Asthma can also develop from occupational exposure to irritating chemicals. Air pollution, smoking and second hand exposure to smoke also contribute to the risk of developing asthma or experiencing a worsening of asthma symptoms.

Making a diagnosis of asthma includes completing a complete medical evaluation and history and physical examination. Diagnostic testing can include lung function tests, such as spirometry. This simple painless test measures how much air a person is able to move in and out of the lungs. Spirometry is also often used regularly to monitor how well asthma treatments are working.

A chest X-ray may also be done, which can evaluate a number of factors, including the presence of other conditions that may occur with or without asthma symptoms, such as pneumonia, and bronchitis. A bronchoprovocation test may also be performed to measure lung function after a variety of factors that potentially provoke asthma symptoms are introduced to the patient. Allergy testing is also commonly performed to determine a person's individual sensitivities to allergens, substances that trigger an allergic reaction that can result in asthma symptoms.

It is possible that a diagnosis of asthma can be missed or delayed because symptoms may be mild or not typical or are associated with other conditions. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of asthma.

There is no cure for asthma, although some children may grow out of the condition. With an individualized treatment plan that best fits the type and severity of asthma and a person's life style, asthma can be successfully treated. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of asthma. ...more »

Asthma: Asthma is a chronic, ongoing lung disease or respiratory condition marked by acute flare-ups or attacks of difficulty with breathing. This includes shortness of breath, cough, chest tightness, and the hallmark wheezing sound, a "whistling" noise that occurs with respirations. It is a common condition that most often occurs during childhood and can continue into adulthood. The onset of asthma can also occur at any age. More than 6 million children and 22 million adults in the U.S. have the condition, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Asthma symptoms can range from mild to life threatening.

Asthma is a disease of the lower respiratory track. Characteristics include inflammation of the airways in the lungs. These include the bronchioles, small hollow passageways that branch off the main airway from the mouth and nose. Air and oxygen pass through the bronchioles into the alveoli, tiny hollow structures in the lungs where oxygen is absorbed in to the bloodstream. In asthma, bronchioles and alveoli become inflamed, irritated and swollen, blocking the flow of air into the lungs. The surrounding muscles react by tightening and further blocking the flow of oxygen into the lungs and bloodstream. The airway also begins to make more mucus than normal, which further blocks the airways and compounds the problem with the intake of air. ...more »

Asthma: Symptoms

Asthma symptoms can range from mild to life threatening. The hallmark symptoms include shortness of breath and wheezing. Wheezing is a whistling sound that is created as air is forced through the narrowed airways in the lungs of a person with asthma. Wheezing is often heard when a person with asthma exhales, but may also be heard when a person inhales. Some wheezing can be heard by ...more symptoms »

Asthma: Treatments

Asthma is a chronic disease that is not curable, but with regular medical care and consistent patient compliance with treatments, asthma attacks can successfully be minimized in occurrence, length and severity. The treatment goal for asthma patients is to control symptoms to a degree that allows them to live normal, active lives and to sleep comfortably.

The most effect asthma ...more treatments »

Asthma: Misdiagnosis

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of asthma is vital to preventing serious, even life threatening complications, such as pneumonia and respiratory arrest.

In some cases, a diagnosis of asthma may be overlooked or delayed because the symptoms may be mild. Additionally, not all symptoms of asthma are always related to asthma. Wheezing, a whistling sound made ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Asthma

Treatments for Asthma

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Asthma:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Asthma?

Asthma: Animations

Asthma: Related Patient Stories

Asthma: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Asthma.

Alternative Treatments for Asthma

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Asthma may include:

Curable Types of Asthma

Possibly curable types of Asthma include:

Rare Types of Asthma:

Rare types of Asthma include:

Asthma: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Asthma:

Causes of Asthma

Read more about causes of Asthma.

More information about causes of Asthma:

Disease Topics Related To Asthma

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Asthma:

Asthma: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Asthma

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Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as ...read more »

Asthma: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Asthma

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Asthma:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Asthma, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Asthma: Rare Types

Latest Treatments for Asthma

Prognosis for Asthma

Prognosis for Asthma: Almost all asthma patients can become free of symptoms with proper treatment. Patients and their families should expect nothing less. (Source: excerpt from NHLBI -- Your Asthma Can Be Controlled: NHLBI)

Research about Asthma

Visit our research pages for current research about Asthma treatments.

Clinical Trials for Asthma

The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Asthma include:

Statistics for Asthma

Asthma: Broader Related Topics

Asthma Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

Article Excerpts about Asthma

NHLBI, Asthma & Physical Activity in the School: NHLBI (Excerpt)

Asthma is a chronic lung condition with ongoing airway inflammation that results in recurring acute episodes (attacks) of breathing problems such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These symptoms occur because the inflammation makes the airways overreact to a variety of stimuli including physical activity, upper respiratory infections, allergens, and irritants. Exposure to these stimuli--often called triggers--creates more swelling and blocking of the airways. Asthma episodes can be mild, moderate, or even life-threatening. Vigorous exercise will cause symptoms for most students with asthma if their asthma is not well-controlled. Some students experience symptoms only when they exercise. However, today's treatments can successfully control asthma so that students can participate fully in physical activities most of the time. (Source: excerpt from NHLBI, Asthma & Physical Activity in the School: NHLBI)

NHLBI, Asthma Age Page: NHLBI (Excerpt)

Asthma is a disease of the lung airways. With asthma, the airways are inflamed (swollen) and react easily to certain things, like viruses, smoke, or pollen. When the inflamed airways react, they get narrow and make it hard to breathe. Common asthma symptoms are wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. When these symptoms get worse, it's an asthma attack. (Source: excerpt from NHLBI, Asthma Age Page: NHLBI)

ASTHMA: NWHIC (Excerpt)

Asthma is a chronic lung condition marked by labored breathing, wheezing, and/or coughing. During an asthmatic episode, bronchial tubes or airways become narrowed by the production of excess mucus, the swelling of airway linings, or the tightening of muscles around the airways. (Source: excerpt from ASTHMA: NWHIC)

Definitions of Asthma:

Form of bronchial disorder associated with airway obstruction, marked by recurrent attacks of paroxysmal dyspnea, with wheezing due to spasmodic contraction of the bronchi. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Respiratory disorder characterized by wheezing; usually of allergic origin - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

 

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