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What Is Asthma?

Most of us have known someone with asthma:  they wheeze, they have lots of allergies and they carry emergency medicine.  This lung disease affects nearly 12 million Americans, about 5 percent of our population.  Asthma is the leading cause of hospitalization for children and the death rate is increasing.  Asthma is more common in boys than girls, but equals out among adults. The death rate from asthma is significantly higher in women than in men, although the reason is unknown.

Asthma is a lung disease with airway narrowing or blockage from spasm or inflammation that is at least partially reversible either on its own or with treatment.  Patients with asthma also have increased airway sensitivity to a variety of environmental and other stimuli.  Factors that may start asthma attacks include:  allergies, infections, temperature changes, humidity changes, exposure to certain odors or gases (such as cigarette smoke), stress, certain medications, and even exercise.  Patients are taught to avoid as many of these triggers as possible and many must not only take preventive medicine, but carry emergency medicines as well.

Asthma can also be a complicating factor in pregnancy; these patients should be closely monitored.

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Created: 3/27/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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