Asthma and Genetics: is There a Link?
Millions of people have been diagnosed with asthma, and while genetics play a significant role in determining your risk for developing asthma, it is not the only factor. Other things like environmental factors or if you have other health issues such as allergies also increase your risk of developing asthma. Here is a list of contributing factors that are linked to increased risks of asthma and what to do if you suspect that you or a loved one is asthmatic.
What are the Genetic Factors that Contribute to Having Asthma?
People who have one asthmatic parent are more likely to develop asthma than those that do not. If both your parents have asthma, this compounds your risk significantly. Also, when we look at twin studies, they show that identical twins are much more likely to both have asthma than fraternal twins are.
However, it is important to note that having asthmatic parents does not automatically mean that you will develop asthma, as well. It simply means that your chances of developing asthma are higher.
What Other Factors Contribute to Having Asthma?
Environmental factors must also be taken into consideration when we look at asthma. For example, those with certain occupations, such as lumber mill workers, carpenters, and woodworkers, are at a higher risk of developing asthma due to their exposure to sawdust. In certain cases, when a person stops working in these occupations, their asthma actually goes away.
Having an allergic sensitivity to things such as cigarette smoke, pollen, and pet dander can also cause asthmatic reactions. It is important to note that having allergic sensitivities can be linked to genetics, as well.
- Being a smoker
- Being exposed to secondhand smoke
- Infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are at high risk for developing asthma
- Being born prematurely
- Low birth weight
- Children who grow up in urban areas are far more likely to develop asthma than children growing up in rural areas
- Infants born by C-section
- Having another atopic condition such as eczema. In fact, children with eczema are 40% to 50% more likely to have asthma than the average child
- Being overweight: if your BMI is between 25 and 30 you are 38% more likely to develop asthma
- Viral respiratory infections like bronchitis
- Air pollution
Additionally, more children develop asthma than adults; boys are more likely to develop asthma than girls. However, women are more likely to develop adult asthma than men, which is often attributed to their hormone fluctuations during pregnancy and menopause.
What to Do if You Suspect You Have Asthma
- See a doctor immediately so you can be properly diagnosed
- Once you know for a fact that you have asthma, determine what your asthmatic triggers are
- Once you identify what triggers your asthma, start safeguarding yourself from them
- Safeguard your home with items such as dehumidifiers and air filters
- Discuss medication options with your doctor
It is very important for anyone who is at high risk of developing asthma to speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible. If left untreated, untreated asthma can be life-threatening.
Now that you know more about the role that genetics plays in developing asthma, be sure to share your family history with your doctor, as well as any other environmental factors that may be contributing to your health problem. And if you have further questions about asthma and how to manage it, get in contact with Dr. Mayank Shukla.