What causes Asthma?

An incurable condition affecting the lungs, asthma can be managed so that sufferers can lead a healthy and active lifestyle

What causes asthma?
Asthma is caused by inflammation of the airways. These are the small tubes, called bronchi, which carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma, the bronchi will become inflamed and more sensitive than normal. When you come into contact with something that irritates your lungs, known as a trigger, your airways become narrow, the muscles around them tighten and there is an increase in the production of sticky mucus (phlegm). This makes it difficult to breathe and causes wheezing and coughing. It may also make your chest feel tight.

What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of asthma include feeling breathless, a tight chest, wheezing and coughing.

What are the common triggers?
These differ from person-to-person and people with asthma may have several triggers. Common triggers include house dust mites, animal fur, pollen, tobacco smoke, exercise, cold air and chest infections.

What is an asthma attack?
A severe onset of symptoms is known as an asthma attack or an ‘acute asthma exacerbation’. Asthma attacks may require hospital treatment and can sometimes be life-threatening, although this is rare. For some people with chronic (long-lasting) asthma, long-term inflammation of the airways may lead to more permanent narrowing

Is it likely for a child to grow out of asthma?
If you are diagnosed with asthma as a child, the symptoms may disappear during teenage years; that’s not to say it won’t return in adulthood though. If childhood symptoms of asthma are moderate to severe, it is more likely that the condition will persist or return later in life.

What treatments are available for asthma?
Your GP will tailor treatments to suit the severity of your symptoms, ranging from an inhaler to regular checks to ensure your asthma is under control.

Can lifestyle changes reduce the symptoms?
Yes. If you are a smoker and have asthma, you should stop as this will significantly reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms. Although exercise can sometimes be a trigger of asthma, it shouldn’t once you have been given the appropriate treatment, such as an inhaler.

Are complimentary therapies available to treat asthma?
Yes, a number of complimentary therapies are available, including breathing exercises, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and homoeopathy. However, there is little evidence to suggest that any of these treatments, besides breathing exercises, are effective. There is good evidence to suggest that breathing exercises taught by a physiotherapist, yoga and the Buteyko method (a technique involving shallow breathing) can improve symptoms and reduce the need for reliever medicines in some people.

The information in this article has been sourced via NHS Choices: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/pages/introduction.aspx/

By Kerry Spencer

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