Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory lung disease that narrows your airways and causes shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and chest pain. About 21 million Americans age 18 and older have asthma, as do approximately 5 million children and teens.
You’re more likely to have asthma if you’re a woman than if you’re a man. Asthma is most common in people with lower incomes, in the elderly, and among Blacks and Hispanics. Once you develop asthma, you have it for life.
Even though there’s no cure yet, you can manage asthma attacks and symptoms with the help of a physician and medications. In West Los Angeles, California, Catherine Fuller, MD, can help you understand what’s caused your asthma, which may influence her treatment plan for managing your symptoms.
You may have inherited your asthma
If your mother or father had asthma, you’re 3-6 times more likely to develop asthma than someone whose parents were asthma-free. Also, if you’re susceptible to allergies — which sometimes lead to asthma — you could have inherited them from your parents.
However, it’s important to note that just because a condition runs in a family doesn’t mean it’s genetic. If you grow up in an environment similar to the one in which your parents were raised, external factors may have had just as much to do with your asthma as your DNA.
You live in a stressful environment
Pollutants — including cigarette smoke and smog — tax your lungs and their ability to keep themselves clear and healthy. One reason that asthma tends to strike people with lower incomes is that they’re exposed to more external and internal stressors.
Urban living usually involves air filled with smog that can irritate your lungs. Mold in the walls, floors, or ventilation system can trigger asthma. Even emotional stress can increase your risk for developing inflammation, which is behind many chronic diseases, including asthma.
Many people develop asthma as children. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke (a stressor and pollutant) are more likely to have asthma than those who don’t live in a home with smokers.
Your job may have triggered your asthma
Working with certain chemicals can irritate your lungs and airways, increasing your risk of developing asthma. Dust and smoke are other irritants that can create inflammation and prompt asthma attacks.
Be sure to wear protective masks at your workplace if you’re exposed to dust, chemicals, or smoke. Follow any safety guidelines in place to minimize the risk of an asthma attack. Be sure that your workplace (and home) are tested for mold, which can trigger attacks.
You were exposed to allergens or pathogens
A viral infection that affects your lungs and airways could lead to the long-term inflammation associated with asthma. You’re especially likely to develop asthma if you suffered a viral respiratory infection as a child.
If you suffer from allergies, you could develop asthma. In addition to taking your allergy medications on a high-pollen day, you should also take your asthma medication before heading outdoors.
Your lifestyle choices influenced your asthma
Smokers are more likely to develop asthma than nonsmokers. Being overweight or obese also raises your risk. Carrying excess weight stresses your body, which can lead to inflammation that eventually develops into asthma.
Causes are also triggers
Whatever caused you to develop asthma in the first place may also be among the triggers for your attacks. It’s a good idea to keep a diary so you can identify — and then avoid — circumstances and substances that trigger your asthma attacks, including:
- Indoor allergens such as dust, pet dander, or mold
- Outdoor allergens such as pollen
- Emotional stress
- Poor air quality or smoke
- Very cold weather
- Medications, including aspirin
If physical activity is one of your triggers — a condition known as exercise-induced asthma — Dr. Fuller and her team work with you to find a safe way to get the exercise your body needs without setting off an asthma attack.
No matter why you have asthma, you deserve to breathe fully and freely. Visit our Brentwood office to determine your asthma triggers and get the help you need. Calling our friendly staff at 310-828-7978 or use our online appointment request tool.