Is Asthma Genetic? Understanding the Causes and Treatments of Asthma
Asthma is a respiratory condition that causes inflammation of the lung airways, leading to increased breathing difficulties. According to various governmental statistics, nearly 25 million Americans have the condition.
So, how does asthma cause breathing problems? We can only understand the condition by first getting into the detail of the breathing process. Usually, when you breathe, you take air through your nose down into your airways, finally to the body's lungs. In the lungs, oxygen is delivered to your bloodstream through small air passages.
However, in some cases, the lining of the lung airways might swell, tightening the muscles around them. When this happens, mucus is likely to fill the airways, substantially reducing the amount of air passing through them. This might bring about asthma attacks.
Therefore, asthma is brought about by the tightness of your chest and increased coughing and wheezing.
Symptoms of Asthma
Asthmatic symptoms vary considerably from one individual to the other. Others might have inconsistent symptoms, having asthma attacks only at certain times, while others might have the symptoms all the time.
Asthma exists in various forms depending on the severity of the symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of the respiratory condition include:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing and coughing attacks
- Talking difficulties
Is Asthma Genetic?
Asthma can be genetic since it has a vital genetic component. However, not all asthma types run in the family, as different risk factors cause them. It is evident from various research that asthma is caused by half genetic susceptibility and half environmental factors. However, the study is yet to find the exact cause of the respiratory condition.
Let's explore the causes of asthma in detail.
Genetics and Family History
Genetics plays a significant role in the development of asthma, especially among children. Hence, mothers and dads are always to blame for the child's asthmatic condition. Children are likely to inherit the genetic makeup from their parents.
It is undoubtedly true that three-fifths of all the cases are hereditary. This is according to research and genetic studies conducted by the CDC. It is also believed that a person is three to six times more likely to develop the condition if their parents have asthma.
Asthma and Atopy
Atopy refers to the genetic tendency to develop asthma and other allergic conditions such as eczema, allergic conjunctivitis, and allergic rhinitis. How does atopy cause asthma? Atopy causes increased sensitivity to a certain allergen. Besides, a child with eczema is likely to develop asthma than adults.
The gender of an individual also plays a role in the development of asthma. For instance, according to a CDC report, childhood onset asthma is likely to develop more in males and females.
The truth to this notion is still questionable. However, according to health experts, the female's airways are relatively large compared to the male's somewhat smaller airways. The smaller male airways might be leading cause to increased wheezing, especially in the cold seasons. Nonetheless, adult asthma is more prevalent in females than in males.
Environmental factors such as pollutions, high humidity, and cold temperatures are likely to trigger specific individuals' asthma. Besides, air pollutions such as cigarette smoke, paints, noxious fumes, and mold can also cause allergic reactions leading to asthma.
These factors are likely to cause chest pains, shortness of breath, and coughing, increasing an individual's susceptibility to respiratory illness. Weather changes such as cold air might lead to airway congestion, shortness of breath, and eventually asthma condition.
You are more likely to develop asthma if you have allergies, especially those that affect the nose and eyes. Nevertheless, not everyone who has allergies is susceptible to asthma.
Besides, not everyone with asthma will be affected by specific allergies. Respiratory allergies are likely to affect the lungs, leading to asthma.
Occupational exposures cause nearly all adult asthma cases. These exposures range from dust particles to gases and chemical fumes. These exposures are likely to cause occupational asthma.
Obesity around the chest might lead to the squeezing of the lungs leading to breathing difficulties. Additionally, obesity leads to the production of inflammatory substances, which might affect the lungs' function, leading to asthma and respiratory infection.
Smoking during pregnancy might lower the functioning of the lungs of infants. Also, premature birth might develop asthma.
Types of Asthma Based on Their Causes
There are various types of asthma. These different types are mainly classified depending on the causative factors. Some of the specific classes include:
- Allergic Asthma: Mainly triggered by allergens such as dust, food, mold, among others.
- Nonallergic Asthma: Caused by various irritants, including cold air, air pollution, perfumes, burning wood, cigarette smoke, among others.
- Occupational Asthma: Caused by various occupational factors include dust, chemicals, gases, and many more.
Treatment of Asthma
If you have asthma or know anyone with the condition, you should be aware of asthma's effective treatment options. Having the appropriate treatment helps manage and improve your symptoms immensely to help manage asthma attacks.
Asthma treatment is categorized into three broad categories including:
- Breathing Exercises
- Short-Term Asthma control medications
- Long-term asthma control medications
The treatment options are usually recommended by your doctor depending on the asthma triggers, type of asthma, and the patients' age.
Breathing exercises are aimed at helping the patient get more air into and out of their lungs. This eventually leads to increase lung capacity and also improves asthma symptoms. Physicians or qualified health experts mainly provide breathing exercises.
Short-Term Control Asthma Medications
These medications are only used during a surge in asthma symptoms or asthma attacks. They help provide quick relief and easing the symptoms. Some of the common medicines include:
- Anticholinergics: They help dilate the airways by decreasing the amounts of mucus in the airways' lining. This helps open your airwaves.
- Beta-agonists: This is always the first choice relief of symptoms. They help improve your breathing, reducing coughing, wheezing, and chest pains.
- Oral corticosteroids: This medication's purpose of lowering swelling in the lung airways.
Long-Term Control Asthma Medications
These types of asthma medications prevent asthma attacks and treat symptoms. Besides, they help reduce the sensitivity of airways to asthma triggers. They include:
- Inhaled corticosteroids: These are the most effective long-term remedy for asthma. They help reduce mucus and swelling in the airways.
- Inhaled Long-term beta-agonists: They function to open your airways. To work effectively, you need to take a combination of the medication with an inhaled corticosteroid.
- Biologics: These are weekly infusions or shots administered to help prevent the airway's inflammation. However, they are quite expensive, so you can use them as an alternative to other medications.
- Combination inhaled medications: These are combinations of long-acting beta-agonists and an inhaled corticosteroid.
- Leukotriene Modifiers: Help relax the muscles around the airways. Besides, they also help ease the swelling of the airways. They either be taken as liquids or pills.
- Bronchodilators: these are used along with corticosteroids to help ease asthma symptoms.
- Corticosteroids: These are used mainly when other medications have failed. The doctor will most likely put you under this medication some a few weeks. They come in liquids or pills.
How Are Asthma Medications Taken?
These are the most common and convenient ways of delivering asthma medications directly into the lungs. They come in small sizes that can easily be carried around. Inhalers work faster and can deliver medicines to your lungs within a short period. They come in two forms:
- Metered-dose inhaler
- Dry powder inhaler
Doctors majorly recommend asthma nebulizers to use asthma patients who have difficulties using small inhalers. Nebulizer transforms liquid medicines into a mist, making it easier to get the medications into the lungs.
The device is convenient for older adults, small children, and infants since it comes with a mask or a mouthpiece. However, unlike inhalers, the medications might take a little bit longer to get into the lungs. Besides, it is relatively expensive than asthma inhalers.
Asthma Prevention Strategies
Since the exact cause of asthma is yet to be established, it is quite challenging to identify the most effective way of preventing it. However, this guide provides some of the strategies one might use to avoid the condition. They include:
- Avoiding triggers such as dust, chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, among others that might lead to breathing complications.
- It is essential to reduce your exposure to allergens such as mold and dust, triggering an asthma attack.
- Taking preventive medication as per your doctor's prescription is the other way of preventing asthma attacks.
The following strategies will help you live a healthier life despite your medical condition:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Avoid unhealthy weight
- Quit smoking if you are an active smoker
Asthma is a respiratory condition that leads to shortness of breath, increased coughing and wheezing, and chest pains. Despite not having an exact cause, medical experts believe the condition is mainly caused by genetics and environmental factors.
Having the condition doesn't mean it's the end of life. Some various strategies and medications can be used to treat and manage the condition. Always seek the attention of an asthma specialist in case of escalated symptoms and asthma attacks.