All Posts tagged Causes Asthma

What Causes Asthma?

Asthma is one of the fastest growing chronic conditions in the United States with over 15 million Americans affected, including four million children. According to U.S. News & World Report, the death rate from asthma has increased more than 66% since 1980, with a record 6,600 annual deaths attributed to asthma. Worldwide, an estimated 300 million people suffer from asthma, with 250,000 annual deaths attributed to the disease. According to the American Lung Association, both the number of cases and deaths due to asthma are surging. Cases nearly doubled from 1994 to 2009 with the biggest increase among people ages 18-44.

Americans spend $6.2 billion annually on asthma treatment and over $1 billion on medications. Adults with asthma lose over $850 million in lost wages from work and parents with asthmatic children lose over $1 billion by staying home from work to care for their children. Asthma is the #1 cause of hospitalization for children in the United States.

So you can see, asthma is both a deadly and expensive disease. So what causes asthma and why is it on the rise? An asthma attack is caused by an inflammatory response which causes constriction of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. During the attack, the lining of the airways also becomes swollen and thicker or more than normal mucus is produced. Symptoms of an asthma attack include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty performing normal daily activities.

The exact cause of asthma is not known. Researchers think some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause it. These factors can include: an inherited tendency to develop allergies, certain respiratory infections during childhood, and contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in early childhood.

An asthma attack can be triggered by different types of irritants including dust, pollen, ragweed, aspirin, cockroaches, perfume, stress, dust mites, pet hair, food additives, and occupational vapors. Although these things may trigger an attack, they are not the primary cause of the attack. Research has shown that there are several factors that contribute to asthma, including the recent increased use of antibiotics and vaccines.

Several studies have shown that the incidence of asthma and allergies tends to rise in countries where childhood immunization rates are high. This has prompted some researchers to suggest that certain infections may trigger immune changes that protect children from developing asthma and allergies later. Preliminary studies have shown a protective effect of measles and infections with intestinal parasites.

According to Newsweek, “With the rise of vaccine and antibiotics, people in developed countries have experienced fewer serious childhood infections than ever before and scientists suspect that an immune system with no serious work to do is likely to become a renegade army, attacking whatever irritant it encounters. Research needs to continue to explore the causes and contributing factors of asthma.

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What is Asthma?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that 20 million people in the US currently have asthma.

When you have asthma, two main things are happening in your lungs: the muscles around the airways are constricted and inflamed.  The constriction and inflammation narrows your airways, which cause symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. There is increasing evidence that, if left untreated, asthma may cause a long-term decline in lung function. The underlying parts of the disease, especially the inflammation, can be there, even in the absence of symptoms.  It is important, therefore, to prevent symptoms from occurring in the first place, rather than waiting until symptoms become serious.  For many patients, optimal therapy requires treating both main components of asthma.

What is asthma?

There is really no known cause of asthma. A lot of effort has been put forth to try and understand if there is a genetic basis to this disease.  It definitely does run in some families, but currently, there is no consistent genetic profile in people who have it versus those who don’t. We are all exposed to lots of the same things and yet, not all of us have problems. A leading theory is that it is a combination of inherited risks for the disease, as well as interaction with allergens in our environment, that develop into the disease.

There are triggers that most people are aware of, especially if they have any history of allergies. These triggers include hay fever, ragweed, cut grass, and many other things that contain pollen. Triggers that people may not be as aware of are weather conditions such as high humidity, high temperatures, or very cold temperatures. All of these can be triggers for people with asthma. Infections such as the common cold and the flu can also trigger asthma symptoms.  And then, finally, there is exercise, which can trigger asthma.

You can minimize some triggers by reducing the dust in your home. You should change sheets and bed linens weekly.  Some air filters can be a big help in cutting down on dust in the home.  In general, it’s important to avoid exposure to strong fumes, cigarette smoke, and so forth. These can be irritants for people with asthma.  The one that’s often most difficult for patients with asthma is having in their home a beloved pet that may be triggering their asthma symptoms.  The most effective way to eliminate this trigger is to not have the pet at all.  Short of that, keeping your pet out of your bedroom or keeping it outside of the house can help cut down on some of the problems associated with pets.

There is no specific diet that will help improve asthma.  It’s important to eat a well-balanced diet and make sure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals that anyone would need, as well as plenty of rest. That makes sense for everybody, including someone who has asthma.

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