Asthma (hapani) a disorder of the respiratory tract in which the individual has difficulty in breathing. Most asthmatic attacks are mild, but if it remains untreated, the condition may become serious. Clinically there is severe dyspnea accompanied by wheezing.

Basically two major types of asthma are recognised. The first type is the infection of the nose, throat, sinuses, or even lungs, which is often referred to as bronchitis. The second type is more common and is caused by an allergic reaction that may be hereditary in origin. In allergic asthma, the patient may be sensitive to pollen, house dust, moulds, animal dander, odour of any particular substance, pesticides, certain foods, or medicine. In either type of asthma the bronchial passages are narrowed by swelling of the mucous membranes that line them and the formation of mucous plugs.

Several factors, including emotional stress have influence on the severity of an asthmatic attack. Changes in humidity (dampness), temperature, air pollution etc can aggravate an asthmatic condition. The typical symptoms of asthma include tightness in the throat, continuous coughing and difficulty in breathing. In severe cases the individual may feel suffocation along with painful breathing.

A recent countrywide survey by the Asthma Association and the Chest and Heart Association of Bangladesh revealed that about 7 million people are suffering from this chronic ailment. Only about 10 percent of asthma patients in the country get proper treatment. The institute of diseases of the chest and hospital in Dhaka city is the lone centre that has facilities for proper treatment of the disease. Limited facilities are available at the initiative of the Asthma Association of Bangladesh. Most of the district hospitals lack treatment facilities or drugs for this disease. Besides other reasons, environmental change, particularly air pollution is considered to be the major factor behind the rise in the number of patients. Hospital sources indicate that over the last couple of years the number of asthma patients has sharply increased. Allergens or foreign particles are believed to trigger off the onset of Asthma. [SM Humayun Kabir]

See also allergy.