Sometimes referred to as: asthma attack

Interview between:

  • Nora Lansen, MD

  • Jenna Katzman, NP

Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airways to become inflamed, making it hard to breathe.

Cases Per Year (US)

Data from 2011 to 2016 found a prevalence of reported asthma of 68 cases per thousand people.

General Frequency

More than 25 million people in the United States suffer from asthma. This is 7.7% of adults and 8.4% of children.


Swelling of the airways, difficulty breathing, hospitalization, and in rare cases, asthma-related death.


Causes and Symptoms

Can asthma occur at any time of life?

Asthma is a chronic disease that causes swelling of the airways. This results in narrowing of the airways that carry air from the nose and mouth into the lungs. Allergens or irritating substances entering the lungs can trigger asthma symptoms. For unknown reasons, asthma is more commonly diagnosed in children than adults, but can be diagnosed at any age. 

What are the signs and symptoms of asthma? 

Classic symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, and chest tightness. Symptoms can vary over time in their occurrence, frequency, and intensity. 

Are certain groups people at higher risk for developing asthma or asthma-related complications? 

In America, African Americans and Hispanics (largely Puerto Ricans) have the highest rates of asthma. They also have disproportionately higher rates of hospital admissions and asthma-related death. This is thought to be connected to a combination of genetic, environmental, and economic factors. 

What causes asthma? 

No one knows exactly what causes asthma. Asthma tends to run in families, and scientists believe developing asthma is related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Environmental risk factors include exposure to pollution and cigarette smoke.

What is an asthma attack? Are there common triggers?

An asthma attack is a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms. In people with asthma, their  immune system views certain triggers as foreign substances and releases chemicals that lead to narrowing in the airways. Triggers vary by person, but include outdoor and indoor allergens, chemical irritants, illnesses, weather conditions, certain medications, and stress. Triggers are more likely to increase asthma symptoms if a person’s asthma isn’t well controlled.


Diagnosis and Treatment

Connect with our physicians

Nora Lansen, MD and Jenna Katzman, NP are both members of the Galileo Clinical Team. Connect with one of our physicians about Asthma or any of the many other conditions we treat.

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