Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease marked by inflammation of the airways, causing wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. The exact cause of asthma is not completely understood, but it is known to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Here are five primary triggers or causes of asthma:
- Genetic Predisposition
- Role of Genetics: Family history plays a substantial role in the onset of asthma. If one or both parents have asthma, their children are more likely to develop the condition.
- Research Evidence: A study published in Nature Genetics highlighted the importance of gene-environment interactions in asthma. Researchers identified over 100 genes associated with asthma risk, many of which are involved in the immune response.
- Types of Allergens: Common allergens include pollen, mold spores, pet dander, and dust mites. Exposure to these allergens can trigger asthma symptoms or make them worse.
- Research Evidence: The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported on the relationship between allergen exposure and asthma development. Continued exposure to certain allergens was linked with chronic asthma, particularly in sensitized individuals.
- Viral Infections
- Respiratory Infections: Early childhood infections, especially viral respiratory infections like RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), can increase the risk of developing asthma later in life.
- Research Evidence: A study in The Lancet found that severe RSV bronchiolitis in infancy was associated with a higher risk of developing asthma in later childhood.
- Occupational Exposures
- Work-Related Asthma: Some people develop asthma due to exposure to certain chemicals or substances in their workplace. This is termed as occupational asthma. Substances like grain dust, animal dander, and certain chemicals can trigger asthma.
- Research Evidence: A review in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine detailed the connection between occupational exposures and asthma, emphasizing that an estimated 15% of adult asthma cases may be job-related.
- Environmental Pollutants
- Pollutants & Irritants: Air pollutants such as smoke, chemical fumes, and strong odors can exacerbate or initiate asthma symptoms. Smoking, especially maternal smoking during pregnancy, is also a known risk factor.
- Research Evidence: The European Respiratory Journal published research indicating that exposure to high levels of traffic-related air pollutants, especially in early life, was associated with asthma onset in children.
In conclusion, asthma’s complex nature means it is influenced by a myriad of factors, from genetics to environmental exposures. Avoiding triggers where possible and seeking medical advice for appropriate management can help those with asthma lead healthy, active lives. As research progresses, a deeper understanding of the causes and optimal treatment strategies for asthma will hopefully emerge.
- Moffatt, M.F., et al. (2010). A large-scale, consortium-based genome-wide association study of asthma. Nature Genetics, 42(9), 685-693.
- Platts-Mills, T.A.E. (2000). The role of allergens in asthma. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 162(4), s62-s66.
- Sigurs, N., et al. (2005). Severe respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis in infancy and asthma and allergy at age 13. The Lancet, 365(9453), 267-275.
- Tarlo, S.M., et al. (2017). Diagnosis and management of work-related asthma. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 176(3), 316-324.
- Gehring, U., et al. (2010). Traffic-related air pollution and respiratory health during the first 2 yrs of life. European Respiratory Journal, 35(6), 1272-1278.