Asthma: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the lungs, characterized by narrowing of the airway passages. This disease is at least partially reversible if treated with appropriate medications.


Asthma, which is estimated to afflict over 9 million Americans, has many patterns of presentation and can occur at any age. Commonly experienced symptoms of asthma include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing and coughing

Since other diseases can cause similar symptoms, it is always important to be examined by a physician.


Asthma may be caused or triggered by allergic and non-allergic factors. Allergic factors or challenges include:

  • Seasonal pollens (from things like trees, grasses, and ragweed)
  • Mold spores
  • Dust mites
  • Animal danders
  • Cockroaches

Upon repeated exposure to these substances, the body forms allergic antibodies called IgE, directed toward specific allergens. An important part of evaluating allergic asthma includes skin testing to allergens to determine if any allergic antibodies are responsible for aggravating symptoms of asthma. Skin tests are always interpreted in light of the patient’s history, since falsely positive tests occasionally occur.

Non-allergic factors that can trigger asthma include:

  • Wood smoke and tobacco smoke
  • Cold air
  • Exercise
  • Upper respiratory viral infections
  • Abrupt changes in weather
  • Strong irritants such as cleaning solutions or other fumes
  • Pollutants

Patients may have a combination of allergic and non-allergic asthma. Stress and anxiety can make both forms of this disease worse.There are some patients who develop allergic asthma after exposure to certain proteins and chemicals in their work environment. Some workers develop asthma in the workplace after exposure to irritating fumes.


Two principles guide asthma treatment:

  1. Avoidance of precipitating factors (factors that cause asthma to flare up)
  2. Control of the inflammatory processes within the lungs and airways

​When possible, factors which cause asthma to flare up should be identified and avoided if at all possible. It is very important that patients with asthma learn to recognize the early warning signs and symptoms of asthma attacks, and take appropriate actions before the disease gets worse.Patients whose symptoms are frequent (more than twice a month) and/or who have evidence of airway obstruction should take anti-inflammatory asthma medications on a regular basis. When a treatment program is recommended, it is very important that the physician’s instructions be followed in order to get the most relief and best control of asthma symptoms.If asthma should worsen in the future for whatever reason, it is very important to call a physician immediately for advice regarding required changes in your treatment. When these flares of asthma are treated early, severe asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations can usually be avoided.If managed and treated properly, the vast majority of individuals with asthma can lead normal, active, and productive lives.

Christiaan Janssens

​CRO Akwa Wellness

Sources and References:

Holgate ST. The epidemic of allergy and asthma. Nature 1999; 402 (6760 suppl): B2–4.Strachan DP. Hay fever, hygiene, and household size. BMJ 1989; 299: 1259–60.

Martinez FD, Holt PG. Role of microbial burden in aetiology of allergy and asthma. Lancet 1999; 354 (suppl 2): 12–15.

Moore, W.C., Meyers, D.A., Wenzel, S.E., Teague, W.G., Li, H., Li, X. et al. Identification of asthma phenotypes using cluster analysis in the Severe Asthma Research Program. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010; 181: 315–323.

Ober, C. and Hoffjan, S. Asthma genetics 2006: the long and winding road to gene discovery. Genes Immun. 2006; 7: 95–100.​


Guidelines for Diagnosis Management of Asthma
​Asthma: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Asthma — Symptoms and causes

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