Written by Page Anderson

What causes asthma?

The exact causes of asthma aren’t clear, but there are factors that contribute to the development of asthma. According to the American Lung Association, asthma does tend to run in families; however, both inherited and environmental factors do play key roles.  

Risk Factors 

If your parents have or had asthma, you are more likely to have asthma as well. Similarly, if a parent has allergies, their children are more likely to have allergies. Respiratory infections during infancy and early childhood may damage delicate lung tissue, which can have long-term effects on lung function.   Exposure to allergens, irritants and viral infections during infancy or early childhood can compromise the developing immune system. This type of exposure has been linked to asthma. Adults may develop asthma after exposure to chemicals or dust in the workplace. 

You won’t be surprised to learn that smoking and pollution also have negative effects on health and can trigger asthma. You may not be aware of one other contributing factor in the development of asthma: obesity. Both children and adults who are overweight are more likely to suffer from asthma. This group also tends to take more medication and have a more difficult time managing their condition than people of a healthy weight. 

Diagnosis 

Asthma often presents as a nagging cough, periodic shortness of breath or wheezing, but even having these alone doesn’t mean you necessarily have asthma. You need to be diagnosed by a physician to confirm the condition. The doctor will take a complete health history and administer tests such as spirometry. This test measures lung function by measuring how quickly and how much air you blow out.  

Treatment 

Just as types of asthma vary between different people, asthma  treatment needs to be tailored to the individual. There are now a dizzying array of new medications – some in combination, many of which available as inhalers – effective on all types of asthma. They tend to fall into two groups: those used for short-term, quick-relief, and others which provide more long-term control. It’s important to understand why and when to use each.  

Traditionally, fast-acting bronchodilators are necessary to rapidly relax muscle spasms choking your airways from the outside, giving immediate, though temporary, relief. Anti-inflammatory medications work more slowly to cut down the stubborn swelling and mucus  within airways, which builds more slowly from viruses and allergies. Both types of medications are important as part of an overall management plan. 

However, within the last few years, recent advances in technology have led to exciting, new biologic therapies that are now changing the way we treat targeting specific types of asthma.  Come visit the specialists at Annapolis Allergy & Asthma who determine if and which type of asthma you have, and will help you develop a management plan that works for you. Call us today at 410-573-1600.

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