Asthma is a major chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways that is characterized by sporadic attacks of breathlessness, coughing and wheezing. Both genetic and environmental factors appear to play a role in the disease which poses a serious public health problem throughout the world.

Keywords: asthma; airway hyperresponsiveness; atopy; lung

Figure 1.

Factors influencing the development of asthma.

Figure 2.

Pathology of the asthmatic airway. (a) mucous plugging; (b) smooth muscle hypertrophy; (c) thickening of basement membrane; (d) loss of epithelium; (e) mucus gland hypertrophy.

Figure 3.

Allergen sensitization and the role of cytokines in asthma pathogenesis. Ag, antigen; GM‐CSF, granulocyte–macrophage colony‐stimulating factor; IFN, interferon; Ig, immunoglobulin; IL, interleukin; LTC4, leucotriene C4; TH2, type 2 T helper cell; TNF, tumour necrosis factor.

Figure 4.

Stepwise management of chronic asthma.


Further Reading

Busse WW and Holgate ST (eds) (1995) Asthma and Rhinitis. Boston, Massachusetts: Blackwell Science.

Cookson WOCM (1993) Genetic aspects of atopy. Monographs in Allergy 31: 171–189.

Dunnill MS (1960) The pathology of asthma with special reference to changes in the bronchial mucosa. Journal of Clinical Pathology 13: 224–225.

Frigas E and Gleich GJ (1986) The eosinophil and the pathophysiology of asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 77: 527–537.

Hay DWP, Torphy TJ and Undem BJ (1995) Cysteinyl leukotrienes in asthma: old mediators up to new tricks. Trends in Pharmacological Science 16: 304–309.

Holgate ST and Church MK (eds) (1993) Allergy. London: Gower Medical.

National Institutes of Health (1995) Global Initiative for Asthma: Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention. NHLBI/WHO Workshop, NIH Publication 95‐3659. Bethesda, MD: NIH.

Redington AE, Bradding P and Holgate ST (1993) The role of cytokines in the pathogenesis of allergic asthma. Regional Immunology 5: 174–200.

Sampson AP and Church MK (eds) (1999) Anti‐inflammatory Drugs in Asthma. Basel: Birkhäuser.

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Salvi, Sundeep S, Sampson, Anthony P, and Holgate, Stephen T(Apr 2001) Asthma. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0002305]