Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Asthma Underlying Cause

The underlying cause of asthma is unknown, but most cases tend to be inherited and it occurs more frequently in those who suffer from allergies. There are a wide variety of things that can trigger wheezing in those with asthma.

There are two main types of asthma:

  • Allergic asthma: also known as extrinsic asthma, this type is triggered by an allergy. Many people with this form of asthma have seasonal symptoms when their allergies are at the worst.
  • Non-allergic asthma: also known as intrinsic asthma this type of asthma can also be triggered by things like exercise, stress, and exposure to cold air.

In all cases, asthma causes swelling and inflammation in the airways within the lungs. When an asthma attack occurs, the airways become narrower leading to wheezing.

Asthma Common Myths

Common myths about asthma include:

Belief: Asthma can be cured.
Reality: There is no cure for asthma, but treatment can help control the symptoms.

Belief: Inhaled asthma medications are dangerous.
Reality: Inhaled asthma medications are very safe and effective.

Belief: Alternative medications and herbs are as effective as prescribed medications.
Reality: Alternative medicines should never be used to treat asthma. Only prescribed medications are proven to be effective.

Belief: Chiropractors can treat asthma effectively.
Reality: Asthma is not caused by problems with the spine. Chiropractic treatment has no proven benefit in the treatment of asthma.

Belief: People whose asthma is caused by a pet allergy are reacting to the animal hair.
Reality: Protein in the skin (dander), saliva, or urine triggers asthma in those who have pet allergies.

Belief: If you expose yourself to your pet more often, your body will adjust and your asthma symptoms will improve.
Reality: This is not true. The only way to improve your asthma symptoms is to remove the pet from your home.

Belief: Children will outgrow asthma.
Reality: Although some children experience improvement when they enter adolescence, symptoms return as an adult.

Belief: Moving to the Southwest will cure asthma that is caused by allergies.
Reality: Although some people with allergies experience improvement following the move, most of these people develop allergies to substances in the Southwest.

Belief: Smoking does not trigger asthma attacks.
Reality: Smoking triggers asthma and makes asthma worse.

Asthma Trigger Factors

Triggers for asthma include:

Occupational asthma may be triggered by exposure to:
  • Flour dust
  • Plastics
  • Wood dust
  • Animal dander
  • Chemicals
  • Latex (health care workers)

Continue to Asthma Anatomy

Last Updated: Jun 30, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Asthma References
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  3. Keeley D, McKean M. Asthma and other wheezing disorders of childhood. Clin Evid. 2003 Jun;(9):287-317. [15366138]
  4. Neidell MJ. Air pollution, health, and socio-economic status: the effect of outdoor air quality on childhood asthma. J Health Econ. 2004 Nov;23(6):1209-36. [15556243]
  5. Rees J. ABC of asthma. Prevalence. BMJ. 2005 Aug 20;331(7514):443-5. [16110074]
  6. Vallance G, Thomson NC. Asthma: ten myths debunked. Practitioner. 2004 Nov;248(1664):844-7. [15543882]
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