Asthma and Its Triggers

Asthma Can Be Defined In Many Ways

Asthma triggers

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I am commonly asked about an asthma definition. Depending on who you ask some may define asthma in terms of its pathophysiology, while others will look at its impact.

What Is Going on in the Lungs

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that leads to symptoms such as:

The pathophysiology of asthma or the underlying mechanisms that lead to asthma symptoms consist primarily of both inflammation and bronchoconstriction.

Inflammation refers to swelling and irritation of the airways in the lungs, while bronchoconstriction refers to muscles in the lung tightening and making the airways narrow. Additionally, production of mucus makes it all that more difficult to move air in and out of the lungs and results in difficulty breathing.

Asthma symptoms often result from exposure to asthma triggers. Triggers are specific substances that lead to the development of inflammation and bronchoconstriction with exposure. Examples of asthma triggers include:

Different people react differently to asthma triggers. Some people have mild symptoms while others more severe symptoms. Asthma can be defined by severity in terms of different asthma types such as:

  • Intermittent
  • Mild Persistent
  • Moderate Persistent
  • Severe Persistent

Asthma can also be defined by its cause, exposure, or specific symptom such as:

While asthma cannot be cured, medications can provide asthma control.

Asthma Definition— Asthma Impact

Asthma impacts people in very different ways. More than 25 million Americans, including more than 7 million children, have asthma.

On any given day in the United States, asthma leads to:

  • 40,000 missed work or school days
  • 30,000 asthma attacks
  • 5,000 visits to an emergency department
  • 11 deaths

Asthma also impacts our economy in direct and indirect costs of more than $56 billion annually including the costs for 15 million office and 2 million emergency room visits per year.

Asthma is also responsible for some healthcare disparities. Rates of asthma are higher among African Americans, Hispanics, and Puerto Ricans. The disparities are also seen in rates of asthma emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths compared to Caucasians.