What is asthma?
Asthma is a common, long-term (chronic) disease, affecting more than 339 million people worldwide.1 It is a disease of the airways in the lungs.
In people with asthma, the airways become swollen, narrower and extra-sensitive to irritants like tobacco smoke or air pollution.2 This creates breathing difficulties, a tight chest, a cough or a wheeze. When this is severe, it is described as an asthma flare-up, an attack or an exacerbation.3
Who does it affect?
Asthma affects people at any age, and often more than one person in a family will have it. Having allergies can increase the risk of having asthma.2
How is it diagnosed and treated?
A doctor will ask about symptoms and any other cases in the family. They will measure how well the lungs are working by asking people to blow into a machine called a spirometer.
Most medicines for asthma are given using inhalers. Most people with asthma need two types of medicine:
- Relievers – used to stop symptoms once they start
- Controllers – used every day to prevent flare-ups