Asthma is one of the most common chronic disease in childhood and
its prevalence in both children and adults has increased considerably in Europe
since the end of the 20th century. Nowadays, it affects about a
third of the population at any time between 4 and 80 years and worldwide,
asthma deaths have reached 180.000 people a year. However, mortality due to
asthma is not comparable from a quantitative point of view to the daily effects
of the disease. Compared to other chronic diseases, asthma develops much
earlier in individuals and therefore it has an impact on quality of life and
health costs that goes through the course of the entire life. Consequently, the
economic impact of asthma is particularly important, due to its early, often
precocious start.

 

Because of the various and different phenotypes, it is difficult to
agree on a clear definition of this condition. Alternatively, a sort of
operational description is used: asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of
the airways where many cells and many cellular elements are involved. Asthma
results from an interaction between different environmental and genetic factors
where the last factor is estimated to account for the 60 % of risk. Nevertheless,
Environmental influence begins already during pregnancy where for example studies
have proven children of smokers, have a reduced respiratory function compared
to children of non-smokers. 

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