What Causes Asthma?
Asthma has both genetic and environmental causes. A specific set of genes determine the susceptibility and predisposition for asthma. This is why asthma is observed to “run in” families. Asthma is also frequently associated with other conditions such as allergies (i.e., allergic rhinitis) and eczema as part of an “atopic triad.” These conditions are coded for by a similar set of genes.
In an individual predisposed to asthma by a specific genetic makeup, exposure to certain allergens, irritants, and infections can trigger and/or aggravate the symptoms. Common allergens may include dust mites, molds, animal dander, cockroaches, pollens (e.g., trees, grasses, weeds). Common irritants may include cold air, cigarette smoke, air pollution, strong odors and chemical exposures. Viral infections affecting the respiratory tract are notorious for triggering asthma symptoms.
Though we cannot prevent the development of asthma at this time, we can minimize the symptoms and help thwart flare-ups and their subsequent complications. This, in turn, results in a greatly improved quality of life for asthmatics patients. This is ultimately achieved by a combination of identification and avoidance of triggers, desensitization to allergens, protection against viral infections through immunizations, and judicious utilization of controller and reliever asthma medications.