Facts and Statistics about Asthma

Asthma is a common, long-term disease that requires ongoing management. If you have asthma, you have very sensitive airways the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. Certain triggers can cause your airways to become inflamed and tighten when you breathe. Triggers can include stress, exercise, cold air, and breathing in particular substances such as smoke, pollution or pollen.

Key facts
  • Asthma is one of the major noncommunicable diseases. It is a chronic disease of the air passages of the lungs which inflames and narrows them.
  • Some 235 million people currently suffer from asthma. It is a common disease among children.
  • Most asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries.
  • According to the latest WHO estimates, released in December 2016, there were 383 000 deaths due to asthma in 2015.
  • The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways.
  • Medication can control asthma. Avoiding asthma triggers can also reduce the severity of asthma.
  • Appropriate management of asthma can enable people to enjoy a good quality of life.
Asthma is a major noncommunicable disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person. Symptoms may occur several times in a day or week in affected individuals, and for some people become worse during physical activity or at night. During an asthma attack, the lining of the bronchial tubes swells, causing the airways to narrow and reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs. Recurrent asthma symptoms frequently cause sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, reduced activity levels and school and work absenteeism. Asthma has a relatively low fatality rate compared to other chronic diseases.

The fundamental causes of asthma are not completely understood. The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways, such as:
  • Indoor allergens (for example, house dust mites in bedding, carpets and stuffed furniture, pollution and pet dander)
  • Outdoor allergens (such as pollens and moulds)
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Chemical irritants in the workplace
  • Air pollution.
Other triggers can include cold air, extreme emotional arousal such as anger or fear, and physical exercise. Even certain medications can trigger asthma, aspirin and other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, and beta-blockers. which are used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions and migraine.

Prevention and Control of Asthma
Asthma is of major public health importance. The WHO Organization plays a role in coordinating international efforts against the disease. The aim of its strategy is to support the Member States in their efforts to reduce the disability and premature death related to asthma.

WHO's programme objectives are:
  • surveillance to map the magnitude of asthma, analyze its determinants and monitor trends, with emphasis on poor and disadvantaged populations.
  • Primary prevention to reduce the level of exposure to common risk factors, particularly tobacco smoke, frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood, and air pollution i.e indoor, outdoor, and occupational exposure.
  • Improving access to cost-effective interventions including medicines, upgrading standards and accessibility of care at different levels of the health care system.
                                                                                                     Reference: World Health Organization

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