An In-Depth View of Asthma
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease characterized by a constriction of the airways. The bronchial tubes become inflamed, and the muscles swell, thus narrowing the airways. In addition, mucus production is increased, further hampering breathing. In some cases, the obstruction of the airways can be deadly. For most asthmatics, the disease is characterized by long periods of remission, followed by periods of symptoms and possible asthma attacks . An asthma attack is usually triggered by environmental irritants, vigorous exercise, or stress.
Who Gets Asthma?
Asthma seems to be caused by a confluence of genetic and environmental risk factors or even sometimes a poor diet . Having a parent with the disease or living in an urban area increases the risk dramatically. Asthma is most common in children, although it can happen at any time of life. In childhood, boys are more likely to have asthma than girls, but this relationship is reversed after the teenage years. Hispanics, especially those of Puerto Rican descent, as well as Blacks, are more likely to develop asthma than the rest of the population. In part, this may be due to income discrepancies. Asthma occurs much more frequently in those from low-income families. This effect is aggravated by living in a poor urban, rather than rural, setting. Many people with asthma also have allergies . Early exposure to certain allergens or secondhand smoke seems to increase the risk of developing the disease. For example, those children who lived close enough to breathe in the toxic dust from 9/11 were more than twice as likely to develop asthma as those who lived further away. Asthma rates have been increasing. Since the 80's, the prevalence has more than doubled. Today, one in every ten children in the U.S. has asthma.
Why Are More People Becoming Asthmatic?
No one is quite sure why asthma rates have increased so dramatically. There is some evidence that increased ozone levels puts people at higher risk. Other pollutants also seem to play a role. However, air quality has been steadily improving, so that can't be the entire explanation. Some scientists have suggested that immunizations, along with the widespread use of antibacterial cleaning products, may be to blame. Children these days are not being exposed to the common infections of childhood. Because of this, the immune system atrophies and begins behaving erratically, resulting in asthma. Another theory states that the poor diet common in the westernized world may be contributing to the problem.
The classic symptoms of asthma are wheezing, a whistling sound when breathing, shortness of breath, coughing, trouble sleeping due to lack of oxygen, chest pain and tightness, and increased mucus production. Many people spend much of their time without any symptoms, whilst others deal with chronic coughing and trouble breathing.
The most common treatment for asthma is medication. Medications fall into three broad categories: long-term-control medications used on an everyday basis to prevent asthma attacks and deal with chronic symptoms, quick-relief medications used to halt or ameliorate an asthma attack, and medications aimed at reducing allergies which may lead to asthma attacks. Lifestyle changes are another important part of treating asthma. Reducing exposure to allergens is essential, whether it mean keeping a cleaner house or getting rid of pets. Regular exercise can help improve lung function and control symptoms. Consult with your physician about putting together a treatment regimen that's right for you. Asthma doesn't have to be a debilitating condition. Many people learn to manage their symptoms and live rich, fulfilling lives. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/28/survey-sees-rise-in-childrens-asthma-from-911-dust/ http://www.checnet.org/healthehouse/education/articles-detail.asp?Main_ID=193 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma http://www.webmd.com/asthma/news/20061212/childhood-asthma-rise-remains-puzzle
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