Asthma is a chronic disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. During an asthma attack, the lining of the bronchial tubes (airways) swells, causing the airways to narrow, turn more sensitive to irritants in the environment, and thus reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs. The causes of asthma are not completely understood.
However, risk factors for developing asthma include inhaling asthma “triggers”, such as allergens (some common to all and some individualized), tobacco smoke and chemical irritants. Several patients with asthma may also have allergic rhinitis which is characterized by sneezing and “runny” nose. It can start at any age. About half of all people with asthma tend to have their first symptoms by the age of ten years, and many children with asthma have had their first asthma attack before the age of six. Asthma cannot be cured, but appropriate management can control the disorder and enable people to enjoy a good quality of life.