Millions of people in the world are affected by this condition and it causes thousands of deaths each year in the United States alone so it's important to understand what this disease is all about for prevention and management.

Asthma, also known as bronchial asthma, is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the lungs in which the airways became inflamed and may also produce mucous. The muscles surrounding the airways become constricted. Both these factors, cause narrowing of the air passage which makes breathing very difficult. Many of you must have come across the term COPD which stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. Asthma also falls under the category of COPD. However, unlike other similar respiratory diseases, here the narrowing of airways is reversible.

Let us begin at the beginning. Let us try and understand the signs and symptoms and the causes of this life style altering disease.

Typically, asthma is characterized by shortness of breath; cough with or without secretion and wheezing which may worsen in cold weather. An untreated condition may lead to worsening of symptoms also known as an asthma attack.

What happens during an Asthma Attack?
During an attack the muscles around the airways go into spasm causing further narrowing of the already inflated airways. An attack shows severity in symptoms and is characterized by extreme difficulty in breathing, chest pain and tightness, rapid pulse, abnormal breathing pattern (exhaling takes more time than inhaling) and drowsiness.

So, why do you have asthma and your friend does not?
The exact cause of asthma is not known. However, what is known is that eighty percent of people with asthma have allergies to airborne substances. So, if you have allergic asthma then it's important to know what triggers it. Avoiding such factors can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of the condition. Determining what factors were present when your attack started, is the first step in identifying the cause. You may not just one but many triggering factors. Then again, some people may not have any identifiable cause at all.

Air borne triggers include pollen, dust, mold, weeds, grass even cockroach dropping. So, air pollution in any form is not favorable and must be avoided at all costs. Asthma could be induced by smoking. Smoking during pregnancy may severely hamper the baby's lung functions. Asthma can also be food related commonly associated with eggs, fish, milk or even fruit allergies. Some people may have exercise induced asthma. It may also link to sinusitis, bronchitis, cold and flu. Drugs like aspirin, burden and beta blockers may also trigger asthma in some people. Smoke, cold weather, humidity and stress are also found as irritants for some people.

An asthma patient can ensure his or her safety by keeping prescribed medicated nebulizers and inhalers handy. Whatever the cause, identifying the allergy that triggers asthma and asthma medicines are the best way to keep the condition under control.