You may not think of
asthma as a killer disease. Yet nearly 500,000 Americans are
hospitalized annually and more than 5,000 die annually of
Asthma is a chronic condition that occurs when the main
air passages of your lungs, the bronchial tubes, become
inflamed. The muscles of the bronchial walls tighten and
extra mucus is produced, causing your airways to narrow.
This can lead to everything from minor wheezing to severe
difficulty in breathing. In some cases your breathing may be
so labored that an asthma attack becomes life-threatening.
Yet asthma is a treatable disease, and most flare-ups and
deaths can be prevented. In the past 20 years, scientists
have gained a better understanding of asthma's cause. New
drugs have been developed to replace standard medications.
Greater emphasis also is now put on managing your own
condition, much as people manage their diabetes with
insulin. Together, you and your doctor can work to gain
control over your symptoms, reduce the risk of severe
attacks and help maintain a normal life.