Asthma affects the airways, the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. In someone with asthma, the airways are sensitive and easily become swollen. When they are irritated they narrow, the muscles around them tighten, and there may be an increase in production of sticky mucus. This makes it harder for the person to get enough breath, and causes wheezing, coughing and a strong feeling that the air can’t get in or out of the lungs.
Asthma does not usually cause trouble all the time. Attacks may sometimes occur quite often, but in many cases the person with asthma is free from the trouble for quite long periods.
More than many disorders, asthma is a ‘self-help’ condition in which the affected person can do much to prevent attacks. When attacks do happen they can usually be stopped fairly quickly.
Asthma does not have a single known cause but there are several factors that may contribute to the development of this condition. These include atopy, genetic predisposition (having something in your genes that makes you likely to develop asthmas), diet and the environment.
People with atopy are more likely to develop asthma in response to industrial and other pollutants than are people who do not have atopy, and to do so more quickly.
In a small number of people with asthma, an attack can be triggered by aspirin or other NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen. Paracetamol is generally a safer painkiller for those with asthma.
Other sources of information for these topics.
The UK's independent asthma charity with asthma news, information, treatment and research.
General information, plus details of asthma camps.
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