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Understanding asthma: Causes, symptoms and treatments

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects millions of people around the world. This comprehensive guide will inform you everything you need to know about the condition, including the causes, symptoms and treatments available to help manage it.


Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects the airways. People with asthma have inflamed and sensitive airways that react to various stimuli, such as allergens, irritants and respiratory infections.

This reaction can lead to symptoms such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing and chest tightness.

There are two types of asthma:

Bronchial asthma: This is the most common form of asthma and occurs when the airways in the lungs swell and become inflamed. The airways become narrower and produce more mucus than normal, which can cause shortness of breath and chest tightness. The most common symptoms are wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath during exercise or exposure to allergens (substances that can cause an allergic reaction). These symptoms can vary from mild to extreme over time.

Pulmonary hypertension: This rare form of asthma only affects adults who have had asthma for a long time. It occurs when inflammation causes the blood vessels in the lungs to thicken, leading to high blood pressure in the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs (pulmonary arteries). People with pulmonary hypertension usually have very severe symptoms associated with their asthma, making it impossible for them to breathe without daily medication.

It can be managed with appropriate treatments, but there is no definitive cure for this condition.



The causes of asthma are many and can vary from person to person. Genetic, environmental and behavioural factors can all play a role in the development of the condition. Allergens such as dust, dust mites, mould and pet dander can trigger asthma attacks in some people. Irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution and chemicals can also aggravate symptoms. Finally, stress, exercise and respiratory infections can also trigger asthma attacks in some people.


Asthma symptoms can vary from person to person, but the most common include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing and chest tightness.

Symptoms vary from person to person. They can be mild or severe. Most people have symptoms that appear and disappear over time. However, for some people with asthma, symptoms can get worse over time, even if they use their inhaler regularly to prevent asthma attacks.

These symptoms can be triggered by allergens, irritants, exercise, stress or respiratory infections.

It is important to see a doctor if you have these symptoms to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.



Pet-induced asthma attacks are common, but they can be prevented. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, pet dander is the most common trigger of asthma symptoms.

Dander is protein that comes from the skin cells of animals, usually found on their fur or in their saliva. They are not dangerous to people with healthy immune systems, but in asthmatics they can cause an allergic reaction that triggers asthma symptoms. An allergic reaction causes inflammation of the airways, making them more sensitive to triggers such as mites and pet dander.


Asthma attacks can be caused by certain triggers such as cigarette smoke, air pollution or acarians.

Acarians are small arachnids (spiders) that live in mattresses, carpets and pillows. They feed on the skin scales that people lose during sleep. The body heat and moisture produced by sleeping bodies attracts mites that feed on them.

Acarians produce proteins called allergens that cause an allergic reaction in some people who are sensitive to them. This allergic reaction causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes, preventing them from breathing properly. In extreme cases, people can stop breathing, which can lead to death if not treated immediately.


There are several types of asthma treatments, including inhaled medications, bronchodilators, corticosteroids and antileukotrienes.

Inhaled medications are often used as a first-line treatment to control asthma symptoms.

Bronchodilators help open the airways and make breathing easier, while corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the airways.

Antileukotrienes are another type of medicine that can help reduce inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms.

It is important to work with your doctor to find the treatment that works best for you.


While there is no sure way to completely prevent asthma attacks, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of triggering an attack.

Avoid known triggers such as cigarette smoke, allergens, air pollutants and respiratory infections. Make sure you take your medication as prescribed by your doctor and follow an asthma management plan.

Finally, maintain a healthy lifestyle by taking regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and avoiding excessive stress.


Air pollution is an important risk factor for asthma. In fact, studies show that children living in areas with high levels of air pollution are more likely to develop asthma than children living in areas with low levels of air pollution.

Air pollution can affect your lungs directly by irritating them and causing inflammation. This can make it harder to breathe and increase asthma symptoms, especially if you have allergies or other respiratory problems.

Pollution can also make your asthma worse by causing swelling of the lining of the nose, throat and lungs (eosinophilic asthma). This makes it easier for allergens such as pollen and dust mites to enter the lungs and trigger an allergic reaction.

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Smoking is a major cause of asthma and can make symptoms worse.

The chemicals in cigarette smoke irritate the lungs, making them more sensitive to allergens, irritants and infections.

Smoking makes it harder to breathe, which increases the risk of wheezing or coughing and the risk of acute attacks.

If you smoke and have asthma, quitting is the most important step you can take to improve your health.

If you do not stop smoking, your asthma may get worse over time. You will also be more likely to have severe attacks that require emergency treatment or hospitalisation.