Asthma is a common long term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs. If you have asthma, the bronchi will be inflamed and more sensitive than normal.
When you come into contact with something that irritates your lungs – known as a trigger – your airways become narrow, the muscles around them tighten, and there is an increase in the production of sticky mucus (phlegm).
Symptoms include episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. The severity of these symptoms varies from person to person.
Asthma can be controlled well in most people most of the time, although some people may have more persistent problems.
Asthma can happen for the first time at any age but about half of asthmatics develop symptoms before the age of 10 years, it then tends to become less severe in teenagers but can come back in later life. Much of the asthma in young children relates to cold viruses, and children are the most likely to 'grow out of it' as they get older.
Asthma often runs in families and people who have allergies such as hay fever or eczema are at a higher risk. Some people can develop asthma by repeatedly breathing in certain substances, especially while they’re at work.
Although we do not know what causes asthma, we do know that many things can make it worse. Many chemicals and types of dust can cause asthma.
Treatment and Research
Currently - the treatment of allergic asthma is based on allergen avoidance and drug treatment.
Allergen avoidance should concentrate on reducing exposure to house dust mite, mould spores, animal dander and (in some people) pollens.
Drug treatment is directed towards the two main components of asthma: the airway inflammation and the muscle narrowing around the airways.
Interleukin (IL) – 4 and IL-13 have been previously associated with the pathogenesis of allergic disorders however it is unclear as to what distinct role they have in the onset of allergic inflammation. IL-10 plays a role in T cell proliferation and cytokine secretion – also characterised by IL-4, IL-5 and IL-13 - however it is unclear as to whether it specifically suppresses or promotes these responses.
More research into the causes and treatment of asthma is underway and novel experiments are leading to help already, like the use of vitamin D to ease attacks.