When it comes to asthma, questions like: Is asthma genetic? Can your child get asthma if you have it? Does the environment affect the likelihood of developing asthma? are quite common.
Scientists and researchers across the globe have spent numerous decades trying to find the answer to whether asthma is genetic. Multiple risk factors make a person susceptible to developing a certain disease or condition. While anyone can develop asthma, it may have a higher chance of occurrence in people with predisposing factors. Read on to discover if asthma is genetic.
What is Asthma?
Inflammation of the upper or lower respiratory tracts (airways) is known as asthma. This breathing disorder causes recurrent episodes of breathing difficulty due to physical exertion or other environmental factors that trigger the inflamed airways. These are commonly referred to as asthma attacks and are characterized by constriction of airways. Recurrent asthma attacks are likely to cause hypertrophy of respiratory tract muscles, which further narrows the airway and obstructs regular airflow.
Allergic asthma is one of the most common forms of asthma characterized by hyper-responsiveness of the bronchial tract to certain allergens or irritants. An asthma attack in allergic asthma occurs in response to irritation caused by specific allergens.
Is Asthma Genetic?
One of the frequently asked questions online is whether asthma is genetic. While asthma itself may not entirely be a cause of genetics, it may be a part of a series of genetic diseases. For example, people with genetic eczema are more likely to develop asthma. While some cases of asthma are commonly referred to as hereditary asthma, asthma is just partly genetic. Either of the parents with asthma may result in their child being at a greater risk of developing asthma at some point in their life. Children with one asthmatic parent are 25% likely to have asthma, while those with both asthmatic parents are 50% likely.
While asthma is not a direct result of genetic mutations, a large study concluded that some genetic complications or a part of a gene may be the reason why someone develops asthma. Other twin studies discovered that asthma is indeed more likely to occur in people whose genetically close relatives (s) have the same condition. Identical twins were found to be roughly 75% more susceptible to having asthma than non-identical twins.
Risk Factors of Asthma
Susceptibility to asthma could be a mixed result of environment and genes. Genetic risk factors of asthma are further categorized into asthma due to persisting family history or due to gender.
Asthma and Family History
Over the years, groups of researchers have identified certain genes that may alter the immune system. It only makes sense that a reduced immunity could result in the child developing hereditary asthma. This way, these mutations in the genes that code for a well-functioning immune system predispose you to a greater risk of having asthma. While they may increase the likelihood of asthma occurrence, it is not a guarantee. Neither does this mean that people with no initial family history of asthma are not likely to have asthma?
Asthma and Gender
Hereditary asthma could also be due to gender. The genetic risk factors of asthma may include allergic rhinitis (hay fever), food allergies, and eczema. Multiple studies have found asthma to persist more commonly in pre-puberty boys. While the reason for this is highly uncertain, some experts claim this to be because boys have a relatively narrower respiratory tract than girls. However, further studies show that by the age of 20, men and women have about an equal ratio of asthma. There is some evidence that suggests that women are more likely to develop adult-onset asthma by the age of 40 than men at that age.
Asthma and Environment
Genetic research has been successful in identifying that asthma is not a result of one singular gene. Instead, there are multiple complexes of genes, such as SPINK5, GRPA, and DPPA10, which contribute to the development of hereditary asthma. A study into the genomes provides a better insight into how asthma genes interact with the environment to result in asthma. These risk factors may include
- Cat dander
- Cold temperatures
- Dust mites
- High humidity
- Passive smoking
- Pre-existing viral respiratory infections
All of these factors contribute to genetic mutations or allergies which later manifest into asthmatic conditions. While genes on their own may increase the susceptibility of one to developing asthma, a combination of genetics and the environment increases the diagnostic risk to a greater degree. Exposure to either of these factors to the fetus or an infant may likely increase one’s risk of asthma. However, it is unclear as to which one of these has a greater risk factor than the rest.
Aspects of Genetic Asthma
Since the confusion surrounding the common question, “is asthma genetic?” now cleared, we are well aware that genetics are not the sole reason for asthma. Genetics plays a role in the following:
- Response to medications (how your asthma responds to medical treatment)
- Severity (how bad do your asthma symptoms get)
- Susceptibility (how likely are you to get asthma)
Is Genetic Asthma Curable?
May it be genetic/hereditary asthma or occupational asthma, it is not fully curable. There are, however, multiple treatment methods, such as medications and lifestyle improvements, to manage the symptoms. Your doctor or nurse will help you create an asthma treatment plan according to the severity and cause of your symptoms. This way, each treatment plan is tailored to suit the patient in the best possible way since every case of asthma is different with different underlying causes and risk factors.
Modern treatments of asthma revolve more around treating the symptoms and less around treating the condition. This approach works best for asthmatic patients as their condition varies from person to person.
Normally, healthcare professionals prescribe the patient a blue reliever inhaler to ease the asthma symptoms. Prevention of the symptoms is done by prescribing a brown preventer inhaler in cases where the development of asthma is suspected but not yet diagnosed. In some complex cases, the patient may be provided a combination of the blue and brown inhaler, where the brown one is used more frequently than the blue one.
Can I Get Genetic Testing For Asthma?
It is not uncommon to worry about passing on certain genes or sets of genes to your children. Genetic testing could be done in many situations to determine the likelihood of you passing on a particular genetic disease to your offspring. People generally get tested during the prenatal period, but this test can be carried out on children and adults of any age too.
Since asthma is not entirely a genetic condition, there is no genetic testing available for it yet. However, with the revolutionary technology, it may not be far-fetched to think of accurate genetic testing and medication response for asthma soon.
Increased genetic knowledge and advancements could pave way for a safer future for asthmatic patients. Better treatment methods could be devised according to an individual’s personal genetic information. These may help know to which medications the patient responds best without any pre-dosage trials.
Are you worried that you or your child may be exposed to certain factors that could lead to asthma? You should address your symptoms before they transform into a disease. With HG Analytics, you can schedule your appointment with expert physicians who excel at preventative health and patient care and get your screening done.
Trust us with your health and we will ensure that you never regret it!