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This nhn Asthma Guide includes information about Asthma that is written primarily to help Asthma Patients better understand their condition and the range of Asthma treatment options that are currently available:
The nhn Definition for Asthma was compiled from several prior works:
Asthma is defined as a chronic (long-term) disease in which environmental 'triggers' cause inflammation / congestion / narrowing of the airways, leading to difficulty in breathing and symptoms such as coughing and wheezing. The root cause of asthma is currently not well understood, but an 'Asthma Attack' usually occurs in predisposed patients when certain irritating 'triggers' (often natural organic particulates present in the environment such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander... may cause an allergic reaction - or - man-made irritants including second hand smoke, perfumes & deodorants, air pollution...) are present. It seems that allergic triggers irritate the lining of the airways leading to inflammation, whereas non-allergic irritants may not cause inflammation. Generation of excess mucus, and muscular contractions (Bronchospasm) may also occur. These effects result in narrowing and restriction of the airways that causes breathing difficulty and a range of associated Asthma Symptoms.
This nhn Definition for Asthma was derived using several resources including the following Asthma Definition source references:
The Mayo Clinic Asthma Definition is relatively simple and covers the common symptoms:
When you have asthma, your airways narrow and swell. They produce extra mucus, and breathing becomes difficult. The most common asthma signs and symptoms are coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. For some people, asthma symptoms are a minor nuisance. For others, they're a major problem that interferes with daily activities. If you have severe asthma, you may be at risk of a life-threatening asthma attack...
The University of Michigan Health System Asthma Definition refers to Asthma as a Chronic condition, and also includes some statistics:
What is Asthma? - It's a Chronic Disease that makes it hard to get air in and out of lungs during asthma attacks. These attacks can be prevented, but not cured and sometimes they can be fatal if they are very severe and not treated. More kids miss school because of this disease than any other chronic one.
Who has Asthma? - 1 in 7 children, 1 in 12 adults, African American & Latinos have a higher risk of developing Asthma.
The Asthma Society of Canada also refers to Asthma as a Chronic disease:
Doctors define Asthma as a "Chronic Inflammatory Disease of the Airway" that causes the following symptoms: Shortness of breath, Tightness in the chest, Coughing, and Wheezing. Asthma has no set pattern. Its symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, can vary from person to person, can flare up from time to time and then not appear for long periods, can vary from one episode to the next...
According to the NIH, Asthma is a common chronic disorder of the airways that involves a complex interaction of airflow obstruction, bronchial hyperresponsiveness and an underlying inflammation. This interaction can be highly variable among patients and within patients over time.
The same NIH publication also presents a much more technical Asthma Definition that refers to both Chronic and Acute Asthma manifestations:
Asthma is a common Chronic Disorder of the airways that is complex and characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, airflow obstruction, bronchial hyper-responsiveness, and an underlying inflammation. The interaction of these features of asthma determines the clinical manifestations and severity of asthma and the response to treatment. The concepts underlying asthma pathogenesis have evolved dramatically in the past 25 years and are still undergoing evaluation as various phenotypes of this disease are defined and greater insight links clinical features of asthma with genetic patterns (Busse and Lemanske 2001; EPR?2 1997). Central to the various phenotypic patterns of asthma is the presence of underlying airway inflammation, which is variable and has distinct but overlapping patterns that reflect different aspects of the disease, such as intermittent versus persistent or acute versus chronic manifestations. Acute symptoms of asthma usually arise from bronchospasm and require and respond to bronchodilator therapy. Acute and Chronic inflammation can affect not only the airway caliber and airflow but also underlying bronchial hyperresponsiveness, which enhances susceptibility to bronchospasm (Cohn et al. 2004).
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