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Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects a patient’s normal breathing function. The flow of air through the airways and into the lungs is impeded by inflammation. That can lead to shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest and bouts of coughing. Some people only experience mild symptoms of asthma and are able to lead relatively normal lives. Others experience life-threatening spells, known as asthma attacks, during which they are unable to take in sufficient oxygen. Asthma usually develops during childhood, although some patients will be diagnosed with asthma as adults.
Researchers have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact cause of asthma, although there is evidence that a blend of genetic and environmental issues play causal roles in developing the disease. Some people seem to have an inherited risk of asthma, and a family history of allergies is also common among asthma sufferers. Some types of respiratory infections experienced during childhood also raise one’s risk of asthma, as does exposure to known allergens and irritants. Our modern lifestyle, with its emphasis on clean air and good hygiene, may have reduced the incidents of childhood infections to the point that our bodies no longer develop the stout immune systems needed to fight off disease.
Treating asthma involves a blend of patient education, lifestyle modification and the use of certain medications. Patients must learn which environmental factors increase their chances of an asthma attack, and avoid those irritants to the highest degree possible. Certain prescription medications can play a role in controlling an asthma attack and should be kept readily available. Some medications are taken in pill form, while others are delivered through an inhaler-type device. Treating asthma might be better referred to as managing asthma, as the disease is incurable, and patients must learn to manage symptoms as they arise.
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