The Facts About Asthma

Asthma Key facts

  • Asthma is one of the major noncommunicable diseases. It is a chronic disease of the air passages of the lungs which inflames and narrows them.
  • WHO estimates that 235 million people currently suffer from asthma. Asthma is the most common non-communicable disease among children.
  • Most asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries.
  • The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways.
  • Medication can control asthma. Avoiding asthma triggers can also reduce the severity of asthma.
  • Appropriate management of asthma can enable people to enjoy a good quality of life.

About Asthma

  • Asthma is  characterised by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person.
  • Symptoms may occur several times in a day or week in affected individuals, and for some people become worse during physical activity or at night.
  • During an asthma attack, the lining of the bronchial tubes swell, causing the airways to narrow and reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs. Recurrent asthma symptoms frequently cause sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, reduced activity levels and school and work absenteeism.
  • Asthma has a relatively low fatality rate compared to other chronic diseases.
  • Asthma is under-diagnosed and under-treated. It creates substantial burden to individuals and families and often restricts individuals’ activities for a lifetime.

The causes of Asthma

The fundamental causes of asthma are not completely understood. The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways, such as:

  • indoor allergens (for example, house dust mites in bedding, carpets and stuffed furniture, pollution and pet dander)
  • outdoor allergens (such as pollens and moulds)
  • tobacco smoke
  • chemical irritants in the workplace
  • air pollution

Other triggers can include cold air, extreme emotional arousal such as anger or fear, and physical exercise. Even certain medications can trigger asthma: aspirin and other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, and beta-blockers (which are used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions and migraine). Urbanisation has also been associated with an increase in asthma. But the exact nature of this relationship is unclear.

More Information


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Sourced from The World Health Organisation in Health Facts
21 Apr 2016

Sourced from
The World Health Organisation

21 Apr 2016
Health Facts

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