What Causes Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory airways. Genetics and environment are known to play a role in asthma, however it is not fully understood exactly how it develops.
Active asthma symptoms characteristically produce spasms of the muscles (bronchial smooth muscle) around the airways, inflammation and swelling of the membranes lining the airways (bronchial mucosa), and excessive amounts of mucus (increased mucous secretion) contributing to the airway narrowing (see the diagram). This makes airway resistance increase and the work of breathing more difficult. Common symptoms alone or in combination include: chest tightness, shortness of breath, difficulty getting a deep breath, coughing, and wheezing.
Understanding and identifying the factors and triggers involved is the key to successfully treating asthma. Pollen allergies (trees, weeds, mountain cedar, molds, grasses, animal dander, dust and dust mite) are often a significant contributor to asthma. Statistically, over 80% of children with asthma (and adults who have/had asthma as children) have allergies as the main underlying cause and over 50% for adults who developed their asthma later in life. Other triggers may include infections (sinus, respiratory, viral), stomach reflux, exertion or exercise, cold air, fumes and irritants (cigarette smoke, perfumes and colognes, cleaning agents, pollution, etc), medications (beta blockers, anti-inflammatory), sometimes foods, emotional issues, and others.
Special testing procedures are usually recommended to accurately identify the causes of the asthma. Testing may include pulmonary function testing which evaluates the breathing, allergy skin testing, sinus and chest X-rays, and possibly others. Once the causes are known, an effective treatment plan, both short and long term may be immediately implemented. The goal is to live a mostly normal life.
Helping to Heal,
Dr. Harold DelasAlas