The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine

Asthma is a chronic (long-lasting) inflammatory disease of the airways. In those susceptible to asthma, this inflammation causes the airways to spasm and swell periodically so that the airways narrow. The individual then must wheeze or gasp for air. Obstruction to air flow either resolves spontaneously or responds to a wide range of treatments, but continuing inflammation makes the airways hyper-responsive to stimuli such as cold air, exercise, dust mites, pollutants in the air, and even stress and anxiety.

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