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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)



* Not a rare disease

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Asthma is a breathing disorder that affects the airways. People with this condition experience recurrent swelling and narrowing of the airways of the lungs which is associated with wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. Most affected people have episodes of symptoms ("asthma attacks") followed by symptom-free periods; however, some may experience persistent shortness of breath in between attacks.[1][2] Asthma is considered a complex or multifactorial condition that is likely due to a combination of multiple genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Many people with asthma have a personal or family history of allergies, such as hay fever or eczema. Having a family member with asthma is associated with an increased risk of developing the condition.[3] Treatment generally includes various medications, both to prevent asthma attacks and to provide quick relief during an attack.[1][2]
Last updated: 2/28/2016


  1. Explore Asthma. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. August 2014;
  2. Michael J Morris, MD, FACP, FCCP. Asthma. Medscape Reference. January 2016;
  3. Allergic asthma. Genetics Home Reference. December 2015;
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Basic Information

  • You can obtain information on this topic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is recognized as the lead federal agency for developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States.
  • Genetics Home Reference (GHR) contains information on Asthma. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
  • Mayo Clinic has an information page on Asthma.
  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
  • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides science-based, plain-language information related to heart, lung, and blood conditions and sleep disorders. To access their Web page on Asthma, please click on the link above.  

In Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Asthma. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.