Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Illustrated Guide to Asthma

Definition

Asthma is a disease of the lungs, specifically of the airways, which become narrowed, inflamed, and choked with mucus. These airway changes cause the breathing problems that occur in asthma.


Symptoms

An asthma attack makes breathing in or out very difficult. This is why the classic symptoms of an attack are wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. If airway obstruction is severe, an attack may prevent any physical exertion or may even lead to a breathing emergency. People with controlled asthma often have normal or close to normal lung function between attacks, with essentially normal breathing and no shortness of breath.


Who's at Risk?

Asthma can occur in anyone at any time in life, from infancy to adulthood. In some children with asthma, the disease goes away as they enter adolescence or adulthood. Asthma is slightly more common in boys than girls and occurs in more Hispanic and black than white children. Medical research suggests that asthma has both genetic and environmental causes.

Today on WebMD

Distressed woman
Slideshow
Woman holding an asthma inhaler
Article
 
Get Personalized Asthma Advice
Health Check
asthma overview
Slideshow
 
Los Angeles skyline in smog
Slideshow
man in a field with allergies
Slideshow
 
Black Window
Slideshow
Slideshow Allergy Myths and Facts
Slideshow
 
Man outdoors coughing
Article
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
Article
 
10 Worst Asthma Cities
Slideshow
runner
Article