Asthma: Risk Factors

MEANING OF ASTHMA

Asthma is an airway disease characterized by airway hyper-responsiveness. The exact cause of the disease is not known but experts in the field postulate that a myriad of factors such as genetic and environmental factors work in unison to produce asthma or increase the susceptibility of an individual to developing it. The factors include:

  • Family history of asthma
  • Viral infections during childhood
  • Early exposure to allergens
  • Living in an urban environment

Many of the people who have asthma also suffer from allergies but not everyone with allergies suffers from asthma.

CAUSES OF ASTHMA

Two causative factors have been recognized for asthma and they include inflammation and airway constriction.

Inflammation

In asthma, the walls of the airway are completely swollen or inflamed and this makes the passage susceptible to irritants and asthma triggers. The swelling causes narrowing of the airways thus making airflow difficult and respiration difficult too.

Airway constriction

Following contact of the airway with some asthma triggers, the muscles around it tighten and results in a narrowed airway. The individual will then experience chest tightness which feels as if a rope is being tied around the chest. This narrowed airway can permit the lodging of mucus which will even cause more problems and make breathing difficult.

TRIGGERS FOR ASTHMA

The triggers for asthma are not the same in everyone.  It is essential that you understand your triggers to ensure better management of asthma. 

The common triggers for asthma include:

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites and cockroaches
  • Mould
  • Animal dander and hair
  • Weather extremes
  • Respiratory infections such as common cold
  • Smoking
  • Stress and overwhelming emotions
  • Physical activity
  • Allergic reaction to food or sulfites
  • Food preservatives
  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Drugs such as beta blockers or aspirin

Work hand in hand with your doctor to recognize your triggers and develop ways to avoid them.

RISK FACTORS FOR ASTHMA

There are multiple risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing asthma, these factors include:

Family history

When a relative has asthma, you are more likely to have it too especially if it happens in a first degree relative such as parents.

Gender and age

Asthma is commoner in children than adults and has a gender predilection for boys more than girls but as one grows older, the risk becomes equal for both adult males and females.

Allergies

Being sensitive to an allergen sometimes is a good indicator that one is likely to develop asthma. The allergens include:

  • Dust
  • Animal Dander
  • Mould
  • Toxic chemicals

After you develop asthma, allergens can trigger an attack.

Smoking

The smoke of cigarette can cause airway irritation and increases the risk of developing asthma. Children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are likely to develop asthma and even those that are exposed to second-hand smoke.

Air pollution

Smog or the ozone layer is filled with polluted air. Being continually exposed to such air will increase the risk of asthma. Also, those who grew up or reside in an urban area are at a higher risk of developing asthma.

Obesity

Both children and adults who are overweight or obese have a greater risk of asthma. The main reason for this is unclear but experts attribute this to low-grade inflammation that occurs in the body of those with extra weight.

Viral respiratory infections

Breathing problems experienced during infancy and childhood can cause wheezing. Some children who experienced viral infection experience a progression of the disease to chronic asthma.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO NOTE

Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways with an unknown cause. It is believed by experts to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, although this is not proven. The triggers for asthma can cause airway inflammation and constriction that are characteristic of asthma. It is essential to understand your triggers so that asthma can be better managed.

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