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Navigate: FAQ Home Page > General Health Questions > Asthma
People who develop asthma are usually found to have one or more risk factors. (A risk factor is anything that increases one's chances of getting a disease.)
Risk factors that cannot be controlled by a person include his or her family history of asthma and allergies (asthma is more likely to occur in a child if one or both parents have asthma, or have allergies such as hay fever). Risk factors that one can control include exposure to tobacco smoke, air pollution, and exposure to allergens to which one may have an allergy, such as dust, animal dander, mold, tree pollen, grass or weeds.
Asthma is a condition of inflammation of the lining of the airways (breathing passages) on the lungs. The inflamed lining of the airways is red, swollen and produces excess mucus. This causes narrowing of the passages that makes it more difficult to breathe, and produces symptoms such as chest tightness, wheezing and coughing. The passages can also close down partially or completely because of the contraction of muscles that control how large or small the airway passages should be. This closure of a few or many of the airways also makes it more difficult to breathe.
Triggers of airway inflammation include exposure to smoke, polluted air, allergens and viral infections. The treatment of asthma includes medications that relax the airway muscles to allow the breathing tubes to open up, and medications that reduce the inflammation of the inner lining of the breathing passages.
Robert Bocian , M.D.