Abolish Asthma!

Asthma is unlikely to be a single disease, so we should abolish the term altogether, states an Editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet.

The word asthma originates from a Greek word that means "to breathe with mouth open or to pant." Asthma includes a range of different symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. The underlying cause of asthma is inflammation of the airways. But it is not known what triggers this inflammation and why some people develop asthma and others do not. People with asthma can have a range of different triggers, symptoms, and responses to treatment, and the general consensus now emerging is that asthma is unlikely to be a single disease entity.

The Lancet states: "So why wait? Rather than confusing scientists, doctors, and patients even further, is it not time to step out of the straightjacket of a seemingly unifying name that has outlived its usefulness? The conclusion should surely be that it is best to abolish the term asthma altogether."

Contact: The Lancet press office T) +44 (0) 207 424 4949/4249 [email protected]


Definitions of asthma on the Web:

  • respiratory disorder characterized by wheezing; usually of allergic origin
  • Asthma is a chronic condition affecting populations around the world. Public attention has recently focused on this condition because its prevalence and the associated mortality rate have increased over the last several decades. While familial aggregation is observed, no clear pattern of segregation can be discerned. Most likely, there are multiple genetic, developmental, and environmental factors which interact to produce the overall condition.
  • A lung disease in which tightening of the air passages can provoke wheezing and difficulty breathing.
  • Condition marked by labored breathing and wheezing, sense of chest constriction, and often attacks or coughing or gasping. Often from an allergic origin.
  • Originally, a term used to mean "difficult breathing"; now used to denote bronchial asthma (Dirckx, 1997).
  • (as defined by GINA): Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways in which many cells play a role, in particular mast cells, eosinophils and T lymphocytes. In susceptible individuals this inflammation causes recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and cough particularly at night and/or in the early morning. ...
  • A chronic disorder characterized by shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and tightness of the chest.
  • a chronic respiratory disease, often arising from allergies, and accompanied by labored breathing, chest constriction, and coughing.
  • A common condition manifested by narrowing of air passages within the lungs. One reason for the narrowing is excess mucous in the airway.
  • A respiratory condition that accounts for 10 million absences from school in the US each year. A person who has asthma has trouble breathing, often feels a sense of constriction in the chest, and gets attacks of coughing or gasping.
  • is an illness that causes a temporary blockage of the small airways in the lungs. When someone is having an "asthma attack," the smooth muscles around the airways tighten, causing the airways to become inflamed, narrow, and produce excess mucus. This makes it difficult for air to pass in and out of the lungs.
  • Constriction of the airways (bronchial tubes) to the lungs, producing symptoms of cough and shortness of breath. It may be an allergic response.
  • a lung condition characterized by inflammation and spasm of the airways. This causes intermittent problems breathing such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Asthma can be triggered by infections, allergies, exercise, temperature changes or other airway irritants.
  • Asthma is a condition of the lungs caused by constriction of the airways and mucus secretion. These interfere with normal air movement in the lungs and cause wheezing.
  • A chronic inflammatory disorder of the lungs. Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightening, and cough.
  • A condition of chronic inflammation and constriction or narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult.
  • Chronic respiratory disorder characterized by labored breathing and wheezing resulting from obstructed and constricted air passages. Long-term control includes inhaled or oral bronchodilators (albuterol, theophylline), breathing exercises, and, if possible, the identification and avoidance of allergens. Short-term cortisone and prednisone can bring immediate relief in acute attacks.
  • is an allergic reaction in the lungs. People who have asthma have lungs that are ticklish. The bronchial tubes (airways) are twitchy and sensitive to irritating things such as cold air, cigarette smoke and perfumes. Also, the lungs of asthmatics often have a lot of thick and sticky mucus in the airways. So, doctors will sometimes say that asthma patients have "bronchitis", which means inflammation in the bronchial tubes.
  • A chronic respiratory condition in which the child experiences repeated episodes of wheezing and breathing difficulty, usually caused by exposure to pollen, tobacco smoke, mold spores, animal dander, dust, pest residue and certain food or drugs. Many waiting children come from environments with these pollutants. Medications are used to treat and relieve attacks. Families with members who smoke would not be best for children with asthma.
  • an immediate hypersensitivity (allergy) resulting in respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and a feeling of constriction within the chest or bronchial airways
  • A disorder of the upper respiratory tract involving the lungs and the bronchi, characterized by wheezing, coughing, choking and shortness of breath. Asthma is a symptom and not a disease; therefore remedial measures involve locating, isolating and eliminating the cause rather than treatment of the condition itself.
  • a respiratory condition characterized by difficulty breathing and reversible narrowing of the airways, known as bronchospasm.
  • A common disorder in which chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes (bronchi) makes them swell, narrowing the airways and making it difficult to breathe. Asthma involves only the bronchial tubes and does not affect the air sacs or the lung tissue itself. Airway narrowing in asthma is due to three major processes acting on the bronchi: inflammation (see above), spasm (bronchospasm), and hyperactivity (over-reaction or allergy to some substance)
  • A disease marked by recurrent attacks of distressed breathing. It is most often due to allergic reactions to plant or animal substances or to food products.
  • A condition of intermittent, reversible airways obstruction. It can be divided into two types: Extrinsic Asthma, which is asthma triggered by external agents such as pollen, chemicals, and Intrinsic Asthma which is triggered by boggy membranes, congested tissues, or other native causes...even adrenalin stress or exertion. Intrinsic asthma generally develops later in life and virtually nothing is known of its causes. ...
  • A respiratory disease caused by constriction of the bronchial tubes with resultant difficulty in breathing. Wheezing on exhalation is the most characteristic symptom.
  • a disease of the pulmonary or lower respiratory system characterized by episodic bronchial constrictions that cause severe wheezing and shortness of breath.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
What genes are associated with asthma exacerbations?