What is asthma?

Asthma Before and After

Asthma is a chronic, potentially life-threatening disease of the lungs and airways. It occurs when a "trigger" causes these airways to become smaller. This makes it harder to get air in and out of the lungs and results in shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. The symptoms can be mild or severe and can occur suddenly or over a long period of time. Asthma often comes in episodes (also called attacks or flares) that may be separated by months or years without symptoms.

Asthma is treatable and controllable with medications. Understanding the disease and monitoring its severity is very important. Changes in environment may help greatly, as well. Although asthma is not yet curable, research is progressing on causes and treatments.

To learn more:

What is Asthma?
(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
This government site on indoor air quality by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) answers questions about asthma including "What is Asthma."
Understanding Asthma
This video describes what is asthma, what may cause an asthma attach and ways people with the disease can treat symptoms.

next » What causes asthma?

Written by: Lillian Trettin, Ph.D.
Reviewed by: Jeffrey G. Schultze, M.D.
Last Modified: Monday August 06, 2007 11:58 AM