Understanding Asthma

//Understanding Asthma

Understanding Asthma: What Is Asthma?

The first step in understanding asthma is to realize it is a chronic disease that affects your breathing passages. People who do not have asthma are able to move air freely in and out of the lungs.

With asthma, air cannot pass freely in and out of the lungs because these airways are sensitive or “twitchy”.

Have you ever walked into a room that has just been painted? Do you remember the strong smell? A person with asthma can have an asthma attack due to this irritant. A room full of cigarette smoke can have the same effect.

To explain this more fully, we know we breathe through our mouths and air goes through airways to our lungs. When you have asthma the airways go a little smaller. The main reason for this is due to inflammation; this is the same reaction when you are bitten by a mosquito or receive a bad scratch or burn on your skin. These all cause redness and swelling, which is what happens to your airways when you have asthma.

As well as inflammation of the airways, two other factors contribute to asthma:

  1. The muscles around the airways go into spasm and tighten, further narrowing the airways.
  2. Glands in the airways secrete more mucus, caused by this inflammation, making you cough.

READ MORE: Preventing Asthma Attacks

The Process of Asthma


Asthma is a fairly complex health condition but as you can see from the above flow chart, the fundamental causative factor seems to be inflammation of the airways to the lungs. As we put it another way earlier, asthma sufferers have sensitive or “twitchy” airways.

You will learn later on that one of the key approaches to treatment is to reduce or eliminate this inflamation in the airways through medication.

The ABC of Preventing Asthma Attacks

The following are the 3 primary methods you can take to prevent asthma attacks:

Avoid the triggers that cause your asthma attacks. This is the most natural and common sense approach to preventing symptoms or an attack.

Be prepared: know your treatment plan, including emergency procedures and how and when to use your medications.

Control the progress of your asthma through knowing the warning signs and using a peak flow meter.

Check out some of our books on Asthma and allergies for a better and more in depth understanding.

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