Causes, diagnosis and treatment of Asthma

Asthma Treatment London

Causes of Asthma

The cause of asthma is not yet fully understood, and the triggers and asthmatic response differ on a case by case basis. Usually, your body’s immune system is equipped and ready to fight any possible pathogens (disease causing microorganisms) or foreign substances which may come into contact with it, in order to ward off infections and keep you healthy. Sometimes an allergen can come into contact with your body, which is a substance in the environment which can cause allergic reactions, e.g. pollen, dust mites, certain foods, insect bites and stings etc.

In these instances, the immune systems can produce a strong response and inflammation. Inflammation is a protective response and it can cause your airways to become swollen, narrow, and specialised cells lining them may start to make more mucus. This response doesn’t happen in every person, and others who come into contact with exactly the same allergen will not experience this reaction.

When inflammation occurs it can make breathing more difficult, and the muscles in and around your respiratory tract can tighten. If this happens on a consistent basis or you have a more serious viral infection during early childhood, research suggests that this can lead to the development of asthma. It has also been found that genetic factors can also influence someone’s risk of getting asthma, for example if one of your parents has asthma then it is more likely you will also develop the condition (particularly if this is your mother).


There are a number of other factors which can impact on the likelihood that you will develop asthma. These include:

  • Being exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb or very early childhood
  • Coming into contact with particular microbes in the air/environment which can impact how your body’s immune system develops
  • The workplace environment - occupational asthma is a type of asthma which can arise if your job involves working in an environment amongst particular irritants or allergens
  • Atmospheric pollution, pollen, dust and other allergens can make asthma worse
  • Having a large number of allergies can increase your risk
  • Obesity increases the risk of developing asthma and can make symptoms worse
  • Young children with underlying lung conditions, often as a result of viral infections, are at an increased risk
  • Ethnicity and sex can also influence someone’s likelihood of developing asthma


If your GP or doctor suspects that you may have asthma based on your symptoms, risk factors including allergies, medical history and family history, they may perform a range of tests to confirm this.

They will perform a physical exam to assess your breathing. A spirometry test may also be carried out to assess how fast and how much air is entering and exiting your lungs when you take a large breathand forcefully exhale with specialised equipment. A simplified version of this test can be carried out by blowing out as hard and fast as possible into a tube, where it gives a reading as to how quickly you can blow air out of your lungs (a peak flow test).

In some cases, a doctor can perform tests to determine whether particular allergens or irritants cause a reaction in your airway. These are called bronchoprovocation tests. Similarly, allergy tests can be performed to investigate and confirm if you have any allergies e.g. to pets or pollen.

The treatment of asthma can involve a number of different medicines depending on your circumstance, and importantly a personalised Management Plan which your doctor will support you with.

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