Asthma is an affliction that is suffered worldwide but its diagnosis and treatment varies considerably depending on the culture (Jackson, 2009). There are reportedly over 300 million individuals suffering from asthma throughout the world but because a precise method of measuring the full extent of asthma does not exist the numbers may be understated. Also, asthma is not recognized as such in all cultures. In some cultures asthma is identifiable but in others it is considered a less stigmatizing illness and described as simply wheezing. The lack of a uniform system of reporting makes it difficult to quantify the full effect of asthma and to devise a treatment protocol. Additionally, from an anthropological viewpoint, analyzing the development of asthma is complicated by the same factors.
As a malady, asthma has a fairly short history. When it first began to be recognized as an official medical diagnosis in the late 18th century, asthma was treated as a hormonal disorder. Medical practitioners at said time believed that a combination of hormones, cold, and moisture were the root cause of asthma and treatment protocols at said time recommended minimizing exposure to such factors. Pharmacology was in its infancy so available medicinal treatment was minimal.
In the late 18th century physicians began to view the origin of asthma differently. Abandoning the hormonal approach, asthma began to be seen as a dysfunction in the nervous system but a consensus could not be reached as there were schools of thought that considered asthma to be the result of a blood disorder, a respiratory problem, or a multiple system problem.
The introduction of improved technology in the late 19th century brought with it an increased understanding of asthma. This improved technology made it possible for physicians and health scientists who were involved in research as to the origin, diagnosis, and treatment of asthma to make measurements through the use of spirometers and microscopes. These measurements provided such individuals to compare the results taken from those suffering from asthma and compare the results not only between asthma sufferers but also the general population. The result of this initial testing was to tip the balance toward the medical community beginning to view asthma as an allergic condition and abandon hormones or neurological dysfunction as the source of the condition.
As the medical and scientific community began examining asthma as an allergic condition the attention shifted to other aspects of asthma as well. It had been believed for some time that there were psychological factors that contributed to the seriousness of asthma and, quite possibly, also contributed to its causes (Park, 2009). As the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry were becoming increasingly more popular and also enjoying greater legitimacy, this aspect of asthma became an interesting topic for research. Although the trend was toward treating asthma as an allergic reaction, vestiges of the other theories that had been circulating remained on the horizon.
Increased industrialization and the increased use of automobiles in the twentieth century complicated the situation surrounding asthma. The reported occurrences of asthma increased as the twentieth century progressed lending credence to the allergy approach but there were also a number of studies emerging that focused on the psychological aspects. The dichotomy created by these two developments caused the doubt surrounding asthma, its causes; its treatment; and its nature as a medical condition, to remain both in the medical field and in society generally ((Editor), 2011).
Despite the overwhelming progress that was made in the twentieth century in technology that made…