What is asthma? It is a chronic disorder of the lungs and affects a person through difficulty in breathing, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, feeling a tight or heavy chest and unable to cope with demanding physical activities.
Although asthma may develop at any stage it generally starts early in life. Symptoms vary amongst different people and can actually change in a specific person over a period of time. For example, a youngster who might suffer from moderate or severe reactions to asthma could find that in adulthood the reactions change and occur during allergy season only or develop as upper respiratory illnesses.
Asthma treatment varies from individual to individual and is specific to the needs of each person. Because of the individual nature of this disease diagnosis and treatment becomes challenging – in the past doctors were of the opinion that Asthma was purely an emotional reaction which was precipitated by certain psychological triggers and that patients could control the condition.
Hippocrates, a Greek physician during 460 – 357 BC, discovered asthma. He is acknowledged as the “father of medicine” and was the first physician to describe asthma spasms. Galen, a Greco-Roman doctor of the period 201-130 BC, identified asthma symptoms and established that asthma was caused by bronchial obstructions (his treatment for the condition was owl’s wine).
It is interesting to note that both Hippocrates and Galen described asthma correctly prior to the birth of Christ while modern day physicians (who considered themselves superior and more advanced) believed right up to the 1980’s that asthma was purely a psychological condition.
The name asthma is derived from ancient Greek meaning gasping or panting. Ancient Chinese asthma treatment was ephedrine, notably used thousands of years prior to Western doctors adopting it as a method of treatment.
Science is continually exploring new methods to treat this debilitating illness and recently researchers found genes that can be linked directly to asthma – they think that the discovery of a number of gene markers will revolutionize treatment methods as it will be based on individual and specific genetic markers.