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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/5/15

With no cure in sight, controlling asthma is essential

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Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS

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'You can control your asthma' - theme of World Asthma Day, 5th May
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With no cure in sight, experts believe that controlling asthma is essential to ensure good quality of life for those living with it. "It is Time to Control Your Asthma" is thus the sub-theme of this year's World Asthma Day, an annual event earmarked for the first Tuesday of May, which is organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), in collaboration with healthcare groups to raise awareness about asthma care and control globally.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a noncommunicable chronic lung condition that is caused by the swelling and inflammation of the airways, that impairs breathing. An asthma attack is characterised by the swelling of the bronchial tubes, resulting in a reduction of the flow of air into and out of the lungs and the production of mucus, resulting in breathlessness, wheezing, and fatigue. While the mortality rate of asthma is lower than that for other chronic diseases, asthma can hinder day-to-day life by limiting activity and reducing quality of life. And yet, asthma is under-diagnosed and under-treated.

According to the Global Asthma Report 2014, an estimated 334 million are living with asthma. It is the most common non communicable chronic disease in children too. A survey done by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) found that about 14% of the world's children were likely to have had asthmatic symptoms.

This public health issue affects high and low-income countries equally, but the burden of mortality falls most heavily on the developing world, where some 80% of asthma-related deaths occur.

Risk factors for asthma

Asthma is genetic in origin and can be affected by a host of environmental factors. The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are exposure to inhaled particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways. In most cases, the triggers are ubiquitous and unavoidable (exercise, cold air, allergens, viruses etc). However, some triggers can, and should, be avoided (like exposure to cigarette smoke). Air pollution is also a trigger that requires community action. Urbanization too has been associated with an increase in asthma, but the exact nature of this relationship is unclear.

Asthma - hard nut to crack

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