Asthma: definition, etiology, pathogenesis, risk factors, diagnosis and treatment

Justina Ramanavičiūtė 1, Kamilė Burbaitė1, Ieva Adamonienė1

1Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Medical Academy, Faculty of Medicine, Kaunas, Lithuania 


Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lower respiratory tract. The disease can start at any age, the first symptoms occur during childhood in most cases. The inflammation of the respiratory tract results in airway hyperresponsiveness, bronchial muscle spasm, mucous gland hypersecretion and mucosal edema. These pathological changes in the airways combine to create symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, wheezing and chest tightness. Multiple cell types and inflammatory mediators are involved in asthma’s pathophysiology. The airway inflammation is frequently mediated by Th2 lymphocytes, whose cytokine secretion leads to mast cell stimulation, eosinophilia, leukocytosis, and enhanced B-cell IgE production. Asthma has a strong genetic component, and genome-wide association studies have identified variations in several genes that increase the risk of disease. Several environmental risk factors have been identified to increase the risk of developing asthma such as exposure to air pollution and tobacco smoke. In addition atopy, stress, and obesity all can increase the risk for asthma in genetically susceptible persons. Asthma is often associated with increased susceptibility to infection with rhinoviruses. The definitive diagnosis of asthma requires the history or presence of respiratory symptoms consistent with asthma, combined with the demonstration of variable expiratory airflow obstruction. Tools used in the diagnosis of asthma include medical history, physical examination, pulmonary function testing (spirometry), and other laboratory evaluations. The four essential components of asthma management are patient education, control of asthma triggers, monitoring for changes in symptoms or lung function, and pharmacologic therapy.


Keywords:asthma, inflammation, airway limitation, risk factors, exacerbation of asthma, asthma management.