What is Asthma

Asthma is a long-term lung condition of the airways.  At the moment, there is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed.

People with asthma have sensitive airways that becomes inflamed when they are exposed to triggers.

This causes symptoms such as chest tightness, cough, shortness of breath and wheezing, and sometimes leads to a ‘flare-up’ or attack. Asthma is a complex condition that can lead to medical emergency.

In a flare-up, the narrowing airways cause significant, persistent and troublesome symptoms. This means difficulty breathing for the person with asthma. An asthma flare-up usually requires urgent medical care.

An asthma flare-up can come on slowly over hours, days or even weeks, or very quickly over minutes.

Asthma should always be diagnosed by a doctor. Diagnosis usually involves providing a medical history and undertaking some lung function tests. There is more information on diagnosis here.

How to live freely with asthma

Most people with asthma can manage and control their lives so they are unaffected by asthma symptoms.

The best way to do this is by avoiding exposure to known triggers. It is also important to have a written Asthma Action Plan and follow its guidelines every day, including understanding your medications and using them as prescribed.

What causes asthma?

The causes of asthma are not fully understood and researchers continue to investigate genetic and environment factors.

People with asthma often have a family history of asthma, eczema and hay fever.

Research has shown that exposure chemicals, particles and gases in the environment can increase the risk of developing asthma.

This includes

  • Tobacco smoke (especially as a baby or young child)
  • Pollution from bushfires, traffic and industry
  • Some workplace chemicals.

Some studies have also found obesity can increase the risk of developing asthma.

Researchers continue to try to find out more about what causes asthma and how we might prevent it.