Asthma – Causes and Risk factors

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic conditions affecting the air passages in the lungs. The actual cause of asthma is not clear. Asthma experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors can lead to asthma or at least increase sensitivity to asthma triggers. These factors are:

  • family history
  • viral infections during childhood
  • early allergen exposure
  • living in urban settings

Allergies often are related to asthma. But not all people with allergies develop asthma.


Doctors have determined the two main conditions that lead to asthma symptoms: inflammation and airway constriction.(1)


With asthma, the inside walls of the airways are swollen, or inflamed. This inflammation makes the air passages specifically sensitive to irritants and asthma triggers. The swelling constricts the air passages, making it harder for air to pass through the airways. This makes it difficult to breathe normally.

Airway constriction

When the airways come into contact with certain triggers of asthma, the muscles around the airways tighten. This makes the air passages to become even narrower. It also leads you to have a tight feeling in the chest. Some say it feels like a rope is being tightened around your chest. Mucus can get lodged in the constricted airways, causing more difficulty with breathing.

Asthma triggers

The triggers that leads to inflammation and narrowing of airway can differ from patient to patient. Understanding your triggers is necessary to controlling asthma.

Common triggers of asthma triggers include:

  • pollen
  • dust mites and cockroaches
  • mold
  • pet hair and dander
  • weather variations, particularly cold air
  • respiratory infections, such as flu or the common cold
  • smoke
  • stress and anxiety
  • physical activity
  • allergic reaction to food or sulfites
  • food preservatives
  • heartburn/acid reflux
  • certain medications, like aspirin or beta blockers

Talk to your doctor to help find out your triggers, and then make appropriate plans to avoid them.

Risk factors

There are several factors believed to increase the risks of developing asthma. They include the following.

Family history

If one of your parents has asthma, then you are at higher risk of developing it.

Gender and age

Asthma is more common in children than adults. Boys are at the greater risk to develop asthma than girls. Risks are same for men and women for adult-onset asthma.


Sensitivity to allergens is usually a correct predictor of your possibility to develop asthma. These allergens generally include:

  • dust
  • pet dander
  • mold
  • toxic chemicals

Allergens can trigger asthma attacks after you get asthma.


Cigarette smoke irritates the airways. Smokers are at the larger risk of developing asthma. Those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or who were exposed to secondhand smoke are also more probably to have asthma.

Air pollution

This is the major component of smog, or ozone. Persistant exposure to air pollution increases the risk for asthma. Those who grew up or live in urban areas are at greater risk for asthma.


Children and adults who are overweight or obese have higher risk of asthma. However the reasons are not clear, some experts point to low-grade inflammation in the body that happens with over weight.

Viral respiratory infections

Respiratory complications during infancy and childhood can lead to wheezing. Some children who undergo viral respiratory infections go on to develop chronic asthma.

The takeaway

Asthma is a chronic disease of the air passages in the lungs. Its cause isn’t clearExperts think that it arrises from a combination of genetic and environmental factorsTriggers leads to the inflammation and narrowing of airway that specify asthma. Understanding your triggers is necessary for asthma

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