Asthma is a serious, lifelong condition where the number of sufferers seems to be increasing. And because there is no cure, it is vitally important that the causes and treatments are understood, in order to learn to live with this condition well. But to really understand the causes, it is important to distinguish between asthma triggers, and that which creates a susceptibility to those triggers in the first place. This article will go into the common causes of asthma, as well as the two different types of treatment – relievers and preventers. Learning about these treatments and causes of asthma can help provide a sense of control for sufferers, a sense which the condition itself often erodes during the acute stages.
Many people confuse asthma triggers with causes, but there are crucial differences. Triggers are simply the things that precipitate an asthma attack. It could be the cold air, a cold virus, exercise, tobacco smoke, or even laughter. These triggers are the things that cause an asthma attack to occur – but they are not the root cause of asthma. The easiest way to think about the difference is to remember that in the absence of this root cause, the triggers would not lead to breathing difficulties. After all, not everyone has an asthma attack when they encounter cold air. But what then, are these mysterious causes?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is neither simple, nor fully known. The truth is that there are a number of factors that are believed to be involved in causing asthma, and it is probable that the precise links to it are not the same for everyone. What is well accepted is that there is a genetic predisposition to asthma. However it is important to note that just because asthma runs in families, it does not mean asthmatic parents will necessarily have asthmatic children. It just means that their children may have an increased risk of developing it.
Our genes are not the only factor, however. Asthma is strongly associated with allergies, and this is particularly true of children. The environment may also have an indirect effect, in that it may influence whether asthmatic genes are ‘turned on’ to become a problem. People’s immune system may not be as strong in Westernized countries because they avoided infections and illnesses when they were very young – infections that serve to strengthen the immune system in others. These are of course not the only factors involved, but they serve to illustrate the complexity of the question.
Understanding what causes asthma is not enough, however – it needs to be treated. There are two primary avenues of response to asthma – those medicines that work in the short term (called relievers), and those that work over time (the preventers). Generally, only those with chronic asthma need to use preventers. They are taken every day, and generally need a few weeks before their benefits are felt. There are a number of different types of preventers, but steroids are considered the most powerful.
Relievers work quickly, and are taken at the when people notice their symptoms worsening. Bronchodilators, which relax the muscles of the airway, are an example of this type of treatment.
Despite the uncertainty over the exact causes of asthma, some solace can be found in the treatments available. You may need a combination of treatments, and this may change over time. The important thing is to be responsive to your changing symptoms, and talk with your doctor if there’s anything you don’t fully understand. Most sufferers lead rich, full, and active lives; and there are new advances in the treatments and causes of asthma all the time.