Asthma: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors


It’s estimated that there are 26 million American people annually suffering from asthma. Many of them even are not aware that they have it, particularly when the symptoms are not severe.

The symptoms, causes as well as appropriate treatment of this chronic disease may range quite different depending on each case.

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Signs and symptoms of Asthma

Symptoms of asthma differ from person to person. Patients experience symptoms when the airways tighten, inflame, or fill with mucus. The most common signs of asthma usually include:

  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Coughing, especially at night, during exercise or when laughing
  • Chest tightness, even pain
  • Chronic wheezing – a common sign of asthma in children (a whistling or squeaky sound in your chest when breathing, especially when exhaling)
  • Trouble sleeping result from coughing or wheezing
  • You may have infrequent asthma attacks, have symptoms only at certain times — such as when exercising — or have symptoms all the time.

Besides, signs show that your asthma is likely worsening consisting of:

  • Asthma symptoms appear more frequent and bothersome.
  • Raising difficulty breathing (measurable with a peak flow meter).
  • The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often.

All of these symptoms tent to be worse during exercise, when you have a cold or during times of high stress.

Importantly, any symptom can become severe and even deadly if they are untreated. If you’re suffering one or more of these symptoms, contact with an allergist for a diagnosis — and then develop an asthma action plan.

Causes and risk factors of Asthma

The exact cause of this disease has been not fully understood so far. According to the researchers, it is likely to be a combination of factors. Some genetic and environmental factors come together then lead to asthma, almost appear during the childhood. These risk factors include:

  • An inherited tendency to develop allergies, named atopy (AT-o-pe)
  • Inherited from parents who have asthma
  • Have certain respiratory infections during childhood
  • Exposure to some airborne allergens or viral infections in infancy or in early childhood when the immune system is developing
  • In case members of your family have asthma or atopy in the , exposure to irritants (for example, tobacco smoke) may make your airways more reactive to substances in the air.

Some factors may be more likely to lead to asthma in some people than in others. Researchers have continued to explore what causes asthma.

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Who is at Risk for Asthma?

In fact, this disease can attacks people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. Nearly 6 million of people who have asthma are children, particularly the children who have low birth weight, are exposed to tobacco smoke.

Young children who frequently wheeze and have respiratory infections—as well as certain other risk factors—are at highest risk of developing the disease with the first symptoms around 5 years of age. The most common symptoms among children are wheeze and cough. Besides, others risk factors mentioned consists of having allergies, the allergic skin condition eczema.

Among children, young boys are more likely to have it than girls, but this trend reverses during adulthood, more women have the disease than men. Researchers explain that the smaller size of a young male’s airway in comparison with a young female’s airway causes a higher risk of wheezing after a viral infection. In fact, it’s not obvious whether or how sex and sex hormones play a role in causing the disease.

On the other hand, some patients develop asthma due to exposing to certain chemical irritants or industrial dusts in the workplace. This type of asthma is occupational asthma.



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