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Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs. It is a very common condition, where the airways of the lungs become enflamed. These airways, or bronchial tubes, allow air to circulate through the lungs. When an irritant or trigger is present, the airways become swollen and the muscles around the airways tighten. This makes it difficult for air to move through the lungs, resulting in symptoms like wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and/or chest tightness. Wheezing is the most common symptom.
Asthma ranges in severity from mild (infrequent wheezing and occasional use of quick relief inhaler) to severe (daily use of asthma medications to reduce inflammation). Asthma can affect all age groups, but it most often starts during early childhood with the symptoms of frequent cough or wheezing. Asthma symptoms often occur at night or early in the morning hours. In the US, more than 25 million people are known to have asthma. About seven million of these people are children!
Below is a table describing different forms of asthma, and the populations affected.
|Form of Asthma||Age/Demographic Group|
|Transient Early Wheezing or Wheezy Bronchitis||Most common in infancy and preschool years.|
|Persistent Allergy-Associated Asthma||Most common in school-age children, adults and the elderly.|
|Non-Allergic or Non-Atopic Asthma||Associated with bronchial hyper-responsiveness at birth, continues into childhood. Skin and blood tests are negative for aeroallergens.|
|Asthma Associated with Obesity, Female Gender and Early-Onset Puberty||Emerges between 6 and 11 years of age.|
|Asthma Mediated by Occupational Exposures||A type of childhood asthma in children living in associated regions.|
|Triad Asthma||Asthma associated with chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps, and/or NSAID hypersensitivity (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. Rarely begins in childhood.|
Risk Factors for Persistent Asthma
|Allergy||– Atopic Dermatitis
– Allergic Rhinitis
– Elevated Total Serum IgE
– Peripheral Blood Eosinophilia >4-5%
– Environmental and Food Allergen Sensitization
– Transient Wheezing
– Persistent Allergy
– Associated Asthma
– Asthma Associated with Obesity and Early-Onset Puberty
– Triad Asthma (Adulthood)
|Persistent Asthma||– Severe or persistent asthma|
|Lower respiratory infections||– Rhinovirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
– Severe Bronchiolitis
|Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure||– Firsthand or secondhand smoke exposure|