What Causes Asthma?

What Causes Asthma?

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Living with asthma can be debilitating. And if you have been recently diagnosed with the disease it can be difficult and frustrating to manage. As the condition affects the airways, sufferers of asthma will experience a variety of symptoms related to their breathing. From coughing and sneezing to chest tightness and shortness of breath, asthma can really take its toll.

Truth be told, no one knows exactly what the cause of asthma is, and it’s not clear exactly why some people get it and other aren’t affected. However, research has shown that allergies, genetics and various environmental factors can all play a role. According to the World Health Organisation, about half of all asthma cases run in families and the other 50% is made up of environmental factors.

For some people, asthma can be a minor inconvenience but for others, it can get in the way of daily activities, therefore impacting on your quality of life. If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with asthma, it’s key to learn the various underlying causes of this condition, along with certain triggers that can bring on the symptoms of an asthma attack.


Does one of your parents have asthma? If so, this could be the reason for your suffering.

Studies have shown
that whilst the cause of asthma is one of a complex nature, your genetic makeup can predispose you to it. Certain genes increase the likelihood of developing allergic asthma. So, if asthma or another allergic disorder has reared its head somewhere along the family tree, your chances of developing asthma will increase.

And it’s not just your parents who can lay claim to this. The link between genetic factors and the onset of asthma has been highlighted in various studies involving twins. Research has shown that identical twins were twice as likely to develop asthma than non-identical twins. These results highlight the specific involvement of genetic factors when it comes to asthma.

Asthma can also develop later on in life, with women being more likely to develop ‘adult onset asthma’ than men. This is usually due to the hormonal changes that women go through, such as pregnancy and the menopause.

The correlation between genes and the hereditary development of asthma is being further looked into in order to identify the specific genes responsible. With further analysis, it could become clear exactly just what these are.

Allergies and Irritants

Genetics are not the only ones to play a part when it comes to asthma. And with allergic asthma being the most common type of asthma, there are also various different types of allergies responsible for bringing about this condition. Research has shown that eighty percent of people who have asthma will possess allergies but these can vary significantly from person to person.

Allergens are all around us. In the air we breathe, our surroundings and even in the four-legged company we keep. Often, those who have been diagnosed with allergic asthma will react to one or more of the allergens or listed below:

– Mold
– Dust Mites
– Pollen
– Animal dander, skin, feathers or saliva

When the body encounters an allergen, it creates specific IgE antibodies. Histamines will then be released, triggering an allergic reaction. This is due to the fact that your body is trying to destroy the allergens. Symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, watery eyes and a runny nose begin when the body reacts to the specific allergens which are posing the problem.

These allergens can be responsible for long-term conditions or more seasonal types of asthma. For example, pollen can be the trigger behind someone experiencing asthmas during one season out of the year.

Although they don’t specifically cause an allergic reaction, there are certain irritants documented below, which can also be responsible for triggering an asthma attack:

– Chemicals and fumes
– Cigarette smoke
– Residual smoke from candles, incense or larger scale items, such as fireworks
– Air pollution
– Dust particles
– Fragrances; including perfumes, body sprays, and air fresheners

Respiratory Infections

To understand why a respiratory infection can cause asthma requires looking at the basic inner workings of the respiratory system. As asthma causes inflammation directly in the airways, inflammation can also be caused in the sinuses, or more specifically, the mucous membranes lining these.

When a person becomes unwell with sinusitis, this can cause inflammation in these mucous membranes. Essentially what this means is that more mucus than normal is produced, which alongside sounding pretty awful, is similar in the way that asthma works.

When the sinuses get inflamed, the airways can respond in a similar way to those suffering with asthma. This is why treating the infection quickly is important in order to eradicate these symptoms.

If you’ve ever been struck down by a nasty cold, flu or even bronchitis, this can be a trigger for an asthma attack. The airways will narrow when an upper respiratory infection is present and many people who struggle with sinus infections or sinusitis will also show symptoms of asthma.


There is a type of asthma known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction or EIB. As the name would suggest, this particular variant of asthma is bought on by exercise.

This can actually be a common type of trigger and is particularly frequent when the weather turns cold. Likewise, other types of weather, such as dry wind or even a very sudden change, can bring on an asthma attack.

The symptoms don’t tend to appear until a few minutes of exercise have been undertaken. But every person is different of course. And whilst some experience mild coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath, for some, the symptoms can be severe.


If your asthma symptoms started as an adult, or tell-tale symptoms experienced as a child have found their way into your adult life, your occupation could be to blame.

Whilst occupational asthma is the same disorder of the airways as any other type of asthma, the underlying cause is due to substances present in your place of work. The inflammation of the lungs could be due to an allergic response to a substance, which can get worse the longer you spend around it.

Common occupational environments that could provide the perfect environment for asthma to develop could be food places such as bakeries, chemical laboratories, swimming pools, farms or factories. In cases of occupational asthma, the symptoms associated with could be sudden or they could get worse after you leave work. In severe cases, your sleep can also be disturbed, which can impact further on your daily life.

Whatever the cause of your asthma, it’s always important as a first port of call to get checked out by your doctor. They should be able to work with you in order to fully diagnose your condition and to see what help is on offer for your symptoms.