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Several Factors Lead to Development of Asthma

Although the actual cause of asthma is not known, many studies have shown that several factors can lead to the development of asthma.

These factors include a person's:

  • Genetics
  • Development and growth of the lungs and immune system
  • Various infections and exposures in the environment

Is asthma a genetic disease?

It is widely accepted that asthma is a disease that can be inherited. However, the gene, or genes that are involved are not clearly identified. It is believed that the genes linked to asthma involve the lungs and the immune system. It is well known that the "A topic Diseases," Atopic Dermatitis, Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma, are commonly found in one form or another within families.

Does asthma develop during childhood?

The early months and years of a child's life are critical times during which a baby can develop or become susceptible to developing asthma. The abnormal development and growth of the lungs can increase a person's risk for developing asthma. Premature babies born with lungs not fully developed are more susceptible to colds and other respiratory infections. In some cases, an infection can cause inflammation and injure lung tissue. If the baby is exposed to secondhand smoke at this time, more damage to the lungs may occur and change how the lung functions.

What is the immune system's role in asthma?

Many studies have shown that children and adults with asthma have an immune system that responds differently from those who do not have asthma. Many of these people with asthma are allergic and will react to things that do not cause problems in others. Their immune system overreacts when they come in contact with every day substances such as pollens, mold or pet dander. In some cases, the immune system may overreact to other substances, such as a virus or bacteria, and increase the risk of asthma.

Do environmental exposures cause asthma?

There are many non-allergic or non-immunologic exposures in the environment that can increase the chance of developing asthma. Exposure to irritants on a long-term basis, such as secondhand smoke in the home, is a major risk factor for developing asthma. Other exposures like this are indoor chemicals and air pollution.
More research is being done to better understand the role of genetics, infections, exposures and the immune system in the development of asthma and other allergic disorders. This information may help to prevent the development of these problems in the future.

Contact Information

Allergy and Inflammation - Research
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Center for Life Science, 9th floor
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215