Understanding Asthma

What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that's often misunderstood, especially by those who don't suffer from it or have to help manage it. Basically, asthma is a chronic condition that affects the respiratory system, but it can be managed quite successfully and in many cases does not prevent those who have it from living a normal, happy and active life.

Below is a brief overview of asthma along with some basic facts that surround the condition.


Asthma Defined

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, which exists under the umbrella of the National Institute of Health, defines asthma as follows: "Asthma (AZ–ma) is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing."

An asthma attack can occur at any time, and can last for mere minutes or even for days. These attacks can also vary in severity, ranging from a simple cough to a long period of severe shortness of breath and breathing difficulty.

Asthma Triggers

In many people, asthma attacks come about in reaction to certain, somewhat common triggers, especially in those who are more sensitive to attacks. The National Institute of Health also provides a list of common asthma triggers, and they include:

  • Animals (pet hair or dander)
  • Dust
  • Changes in weather (most often cold weather)
  • Chemicals in the air or in food
  • Exercise
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
  • Strong emotions (stress)
  • Tobacco smoke

Of course, this is far from an exhaustive list, but the medical community is constantly studying the potential triggers for attacks and at this point, the list above represents examples of triggers that are more common than others. As a result of these studies, asthma patients have been able to minimize asthma attacks simply by avoiding these potential triggers.

Curing/Managing Asthma

At this point, there is no known cure for asthma, but there have been much advancement made in terms of treating and managing the disease so that those who have it can live quality lives. There are innumerable medications available for asthma patients that not only stem attacks quickly, but also those that help to serve as preventative protections against future attacks arising.

Overall, asthma is a disease that's no longer as dangerous in general as it was in years past. People who suffer from it understand that it must be managed carefully, but assuming that's done, it is not a disease that sentences a patient to a lifetime of fear by any means. All one needs to do is follow pertinent medical advice and keep a few simple directives in mind to minimize the effect it has throughout anyone's life.