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Asthma

Asthma is a chronic respiratory illness characterized by an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. These have a marked sensitivity to diverse stimuli such as, among others, allergens, tobacco smoke, physical exercise, contamination or some medicines which produce what is known as bronchial hyperactivity. When the airways become inflamed, they narrow and this causes difficulties in breathing.

Asthma is caused by a number of factors although in general terms, the so-called allergic asthma is brought on by allergenic substances (pollen, mites, fungi, etc) and intrinsic asthma is brought about by a bronchial hyperactivity not caused by allergic mechanisms.

Asthma can appear in infancy, remain dormant for many years and, coinciding with some trigger factor, become active. On occasion asthma can progress with periods of worsening (asthmatic crisis) that require an immediate treatment since it can become a life-threatening situation.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms of the illness are coughing, a shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness, pain, or pressure. These symptoms can vary in frequency and intensity.

Prevention

To date, there are no effective measures to prevent the appearance of asthma, but it can be treated to prevent the principal trigger factors to avert new attacks.

  • Avoid breathing allergic substances such as pollen, dust mites, fungi or animal hair (especially cat and dog). Avoid or reduce the exposure to mites, avoiding rugs, carpets and stuffed animals in your home.
  • Medicines such as aspirin or other non-steroid anti-inflammatories.
  • Irritant substances such as tobacco smoke, ambience contamination, cleaning products, lacquers…
  • Damp, warm environments such as covered swimming pools, or do physical exercise.

Aside from pharmacologic treatments that could be required to control the symptoms of asthma (mainly bronchial dilators and inhaled corticoids), in some cases immunotherapy, i.e., allergy vaccinations are available. This treatment is the only that has been shown to reduce the natural course of the allergic illness although its potential benefit depends on the type of allergy and is not recommended for all asthma patients.

Gene or region studied

  • ADRB2
  • NPPA, NPPA-AS1
  • 17q12
  • GSTP1
  • GSDMB
  • CHI3L1
  • 1q31.1
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