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Asthma overview

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Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Asthma most commonly begins in childhood. At least 1 in 10 children, and 1 in 20 adults, have asthma. Asthma runs in some families, but many people with asthma have no other family members influenced.

The basic symptoms are cough and wheeze. Some people have long-term shortness of breath with episodes of increased shortness of breath. That you may also become breathless, and develop a feeling of chest tightness. Symptoms can range from mild to serious between different people, and at different times in the same person. Each episode of symptoms may last just an hour or so, or persist for days or weeks unless treated. Read more about the symptoms of asthma

Asthma is caused by inflammation in the airways. It is not known why the inflammation occurs. The inflammation irritates the muscles around the airways, and causes them to squeeze (constrict). This causes narrowing of the airways. It is then more difficult for air to get in and out of the lungs. This leads to wheezing and breathlessness. The inflammation also causes the lining of the airways to make extra mucus which causes cough and further obstruction to airflow. Read more about the causes of Asthma

If you have typical asthma symptoms, your GP is likely to be able to make a diagnosis. Your GP will want to know when your symptoms happen and how often, and if you have noticed anything that might trigger them. Several tests can be carried out to determine the diagnosis. Read more about the diagnosis of asthma.

Asthma treatment can vary from anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator asthma inhalers to oral medications to asthma drugs delivered in an asthma nebulizer or breathing machine. The goal of treatment is to avoid the substances that trigger your symptoms and control airway inflammation. Read more about the treatment of asthma.

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