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Asthma refers to a disorder that causes the airways of the lungs to narrow because of swelling, which leads to shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, use of accessory muscle, and wheezing (Clark, 2011). The walls of the airways become extremely sensitive and, thus, they may react strongly to those substances the victim finds irritating. Inflammations of the airways occur after the allergic reactions. The airways may become narrow to the extent of developing difficulties with breathing, especially at night or early in the morning, because of low temperatures (Levy & Weller, 2006). When the feelings become worse than normal, the victims experience an asthma attack, which can lead to death, because the vital organs may fail to function due to insufficient oxygen supply (Clark, 2011). This paper will consider the causes, symptoms, epidemiology and treatment of asthma.

Causes of Asthma

The cause of asthma is not apparent, but there is evidence that a number of factors may play a part (Clark, 2011). They include genetic factors, environmental factors, dietary changes, lack of exercise, and occupational exposure. However, the causes of asthma vary from an individual to another. Research has shown that many victims of asthma inherit the disorder from their parents. Many asthmatics also possess other allergic conditions like rhinitis, which is the inflammation of the nose lining (Clark, 2011).

A number of children in hygienic Western nations tend to develop asthma because they lack exposure to bacterial infections that induce the immune system early in life (Levy & Weller, 2006). Earlier exposure to bacterial infections may be significant in directing the immune system away from allergic reactions. Such children grow up in well-furnished, carpeted, warm homes that do not allow sufficient ventilation, which accelerates the breeding of house dust mites in carpets, furnishings, and beddings. When children spend most of their time indoors, they may develop dust mite sensitization (Crockett, A. 2003). Other environmental factors include exposure to tobacco smoke, especially in early childhood or during pregnancy (Levy & Weller, 2006).

Changes in diet, such as a higher salt intake, high proportions of processed foods, lack of fresh oily fish, and lower antioxidant intake may put individuals at a risk of developing asthmatic symptoms (Clark, 2011). Reduced exercises may also lead to asthma because the muscles in the airway walls tend to undergo abnormal contraction due to exposure to minor irritants (Levy & Weller, 2006). Many adults develop asthma because of occupational exposure. The irritants in the workplace may include dusts, chemicals, pollens, and moulds, which individuals can encounter in industries such as farming, woodworking, baking, spray painting of cars, and chemical production (Clark, 2011).

Symptoms of Asthma

The common symptoms that asthmatics develop include shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, use of accessory muscle, and wheezing (Clark, 2011). These symptoms are usually serious in the early morning and at night, or in response to cold air and exercises. Some asthmatics rarely experience serious symptoms of asthma, whereas others may have pronounced continued airflow obstruction (Levy & Weller, 2006).

Epidemiology of Asthma

Research has shown that in childhood, asthma commonly affects male children younger than five years of age (Clark, 2011). Incidences of asthma among individuals during adulthood do not depend on sex. The preference of asthma appears to differ by socioeconomic status and between certain races. For instance, the prevalence of asthma is greater in African Americans than it is in Caucasians, but this is not significant (Clark, 2011). Individuals living below poverty level tend to experience more asthma as compared to those individuals living above this level (Clark, 2011).  

Treatment of Asthma

The main treatments for asthma include preventers and relievers (Levy & Weller, 2006). This is due to the fact that asthma is incurable. These treatments can either be long-term medications or quick-relief. Quick-relief medications are useful in reversing the acute asthma by relaxing the bronchial smooth muscle. The long-term medications enable asthmatics to maintain control of persistent symptoms. Asthmatics inhale the medication through the mouth, directly into the lungs (Levy & Weller, 2006).         

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