Asthma (or Asthma bronchiale) is a disease that hurts the airways inside the lungs. It causes the tissue inside the airways to swell, and the bands of muscle around the airways to become narrow. This makes it hard for enough air to pass through and for the person to breathe normally. Asthma also causes mucous-making cells inside the airways to make more mucous than normal. This blocks the airways, which are already very narrow during an asthma attack and makes it even more difficult to breathe.
A person having an asthma attack often makes wheezing sounds when trying to breath, this is the sound of air trying to pass through the very narrow airway. They also have shortness of breath, which means they cannot take a full deep breath; chest tightness which feels like their chest is being squeezed and they may also cough a lot.
Asthma attacks can be a medical emergency because they can be fatal (cause a person to die). There is no cure for asthma, but there are treatments such as different kinds of medicines to help people with asthma. There are also things that people with asthma can do to help themselves, and keep their asthma from getting worse, or from having an asthma attack.
There are a lot of risk factors for getting asthma, and the exact reasons for each is not yet clearly understood. Some of the factors are believed to come from genetics; a person inherits genetic mutations from one or both of their parents that may increase the chances of developing asthma. Epigenetics, which are changes in the way a gene acts, may also increase their chances of getting asthma. These epigenetic changes may also be inherited, or they may happen when a baby is still growing inside its mother, or during childhood.
Socioeconomic status (SES) is also believed to play a part in developing asthma. A person's socioeconomic status is based on such things as how much money their family makes, where they live, and their education level. Race and ethnicity also may play a part. It also is related to access to medical care, personal beliefs, and dietary habits. People of lower socioeconomic status suffer higher rates of asthma, have worse outcomes, and also have as higher asthma-related death rates than people of higher economic status.