Asthma is a disease involving a type of breathlessness. In
the late 1980's, about ten million people in the U.S.
suffered from asthma. Asthma related deaths in the U.S.
increased forty percent between 1982 and 1995 for unknown
Asthma attacks are caused by a partial blocking of the
small bronchial tubes in the lungs. This blocking results
from a contraction of the bronchial muscles, swelling of
the mucous membranes that line these muscles, and the
production of phlegm, a thick mucus. The most common kind
of asthma, allergic bronchial asthma, is caused by a
specific allergic reaction. Most of the time, the allergy
is caused by ordinary substances, such as dust, pollens,
certain foods, fur, chemical irritants, mold, air
pollution, and tobacco smoke. Also, many asthmatics are
allergic to aspirin. Asthma is also sometimes associated
with hay fever, which is also a allergy. Attacks of asthma
often follow periods of emotional strain or heavy exertion.
A infection of the nose and throat can accelerate the
start of an attack. Also, a sudden change in the weather
may bring on a asthma attack. Asthma may occur seasonally
if the air contains specific pollens, but most asthmatics
have attacks periodically throughout the year.
The symptoms of asthma are that the patient complains
frequently of a feeling of tightness in the chest. The
patient also has a hacking cough and shortness of breath.
Phlegm, a thick mucus, develops in the lungs, and the
cough get more intense. The patient may feel better
temporarily after coughing up the phlegm. The length of
time of asthma is throughout the patient's lifetime
because asthma is a chronic disease, but asthma can be
treated and controlled. Asthma affects a asthmatic person
in sudden, sharp attacks that occur periodically.
A doctor diagnoses asthma by obtaining a full allergy
history of the patient, a physical examination of the
patient, and by executing allergy skin tests on the
patient. Doctors can prescribe the drugs aminophylline,
cromolyn, and ephedrine to relieve the symptoms of asthma.
Epinephrine or beta-2 agonists are sometimes used to
control asthma attacks. Steroid therapy is often necessary
for patients who have severe cases of asthma. A doctor may
also hyposensitize the patient to the numerous substances
that induce asthma. The treatment consists of small
injections at regular intervals of a preparation made from
the substances the patient is allergic to. The doctor
slowly increases the strength of the injections until the
patient's body has built up a resistance to the allergy
There is no recovery from asthma because there are no
cures for asthma and because asthma is a chronic disease,
meaning that it persists throughout a person's lifetime.
A person can prevent asthma by avoiding allergy causing
substances or treatment with the drugs theophylline,
which is ordinarily taken in tablets, and cromolyn sodium,
which is inhaled.
Asthma is a very serious chronic disease, but it can be
1. Simpson, Carolyn. Everything You Need To Know About
Asthma. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1998
2. Encarta Encyclopedia - Bronchial Asthma
3. World Book 1998 Encyclopedia - Asthma
4. Pocket Guide For Asthma Management And Prevention -