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Asthma is a chronic lung disease. This means that it cannot be cured. For most patients it can be controlled.


Asthma causes the airways to be very sensitive. Airways become inflamed and narrow. Breathing becomes difficult. The inflammation leads to edema (eh-DEEM-ah), or swelling, of the airways. Edema causes cells in the airways to break down. This breakdown of cells releases chemicals into the airways that lead to more edema and inflammation. Increased inflammation, swelling, and mucus block the flow of air, making it difficult for you to breathe.


Certain “triggers” can cause asthma episodes.


Signs and symptoms of asthma


Shortness of breath


Chest tightness



COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. "Progressive" means the disease gets worse over time.

COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus (a slimy substance), wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants—such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust—also may contribute to COPD.

In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:

  • The airways and air sacs lose their elastic quality.
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed.
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed.
  • The airways make more mucus than usual, which can clog them.

Smoking is responsible for an estimated 443,000 people each year and 5,800 each year in Arkansas. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing compounds and 400 other toxins, including tar, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT. 

A few facts about smoking from the Center for Disease Control
  • More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.
  • For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.
  • Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  • Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Smoking is a known cause of erectile dysfunction in males.

If you're ready to quit, Autumn Road Family Practice would like to help. See below for resources on quitting today.

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