Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world. Perhaps the most commonly discussed respiratory disease after the common cold.
The word asthma is derived from a Greek work meaning 'breathlessness or panting' both of which accurately describe an attack of asthma.
An asthma attack leads to lung infection, tiredness and cough and it is not surprising that asthma is a leading medical cause of absenteeism of children from school and adults from work. The attack can be seasonal when the pollen count is high in the atmosphere. An attack of asthma leads to breathing difficulties and the attack can be acute when it lasts for a short period or chronic when it lasts for days. The attack can also be mild or severe and a life threatening one.
The conservative estimates are that about 300 million people are suffering from the condition worldwide. In India, there are approx.40 million who have the disease and the number is rising everyday. In recent decade there has been a global increase in the burden of the disease among both children and adults. This maybe due to westernization of lifestyles and increasing atmospheric pollution. By 2025 there are likely to be 400 million asthma sufferers worldwide. The more worrying aspect of the disease is that it accounts for about 1 in every 250 deaths worldwide and 90% of these deaths are preventable. Most deaths are due to delay in seeking help and sub-optimal long-term treatment strategies due to the lack of education and awareness about the disease.
"Among the Diseases whereby the Region of the breath is wont to be infested, if you regard their tyranny and cruelty, an Asthma (which is sometimes by reason of a peculiar symptom denominated likewise an Orthopnoea) doth not deserve the last place; for there is scarce any thing more sharp and terrible than the fits there of Breathing, whereby we chiefly live, is very much hindered by the assault of this disease, and is in danger, or runs the risk of being quite taken away."
-Thomas Willis, 1674