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Basics of Asthma

What is Asthma?

Asthma often starts in childhood but can affect people of all ages. It is a chronic lung disease that affects the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs).  When a person has asthma, airways are sensitive, and they can react to irritating things (or triggers) that are breathed in. This reaction brings on inflammation, swelling and excess mucus in the airways, and tightening or smooth muscles that surround the airways. With narrowed bronchi (bronchoconstriction), the flow of air is reduced, making it harder to breathe. 

LungsAsthma symptoms include coughing, wheezing (whistling sound), chest tightness, and shortness of breath.  They can be mild or severe, and can be sometimes, life threatening.

In an asthmatic person, the muscles around the airways become tight, causing the bronchial tubes to narrow and fill up with mucus that clog the airways even more. The flow of air is reduced making it hard for the person to breathe. (See more information on the Diagnosis of Asthma)

The cause asthma is not clearly understood. However, genetic, environmental, and occupational factors have an important role in the development of asthma and asthma control.  

Currently, there is no cure for asthma, but it can be controlled by:
  • following the asthma care plan, which is developed with health care providers, maintaining routine medical follow-ups
  • avoiding exposure to triggers that can cause an asthma flare up or an asthma attack.
  • adopting lifestyle changes that impact respiratory health: sleep, nutrition, exercise, stress management
 For more information, click here for a "What is Asthma" video. Para la versión en español, haga clic aquí.  



Don't let asthma control you!