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Among the laity it is very customary to denote any form of difficult respiration as asthmatic; and, indeed, members of the profession are often lax in their use of the term. Etymologically, asthma signifies labored respiration: hence, there is some justification of its employment as synonymous with dyspnœa. Moreover, medical men of olden times appear to have used these two terms interchangeably. It would be preferable, if the term asthma could be exchanged for one expressing the true nature of the distressing malady; but the word has too firm a root in our phraseology to be supplanted, and accordingly, certain adjectives are prefixed to distinguish the varieties of dyspnœa in mind. The form of suffering to which it is desirable to restrict the term, is known as nervous, bronchial, idiopathic, or spasmodic asthma; while the dyspnœa arising from organic disease of intra-thoracic viscera is called secondary or symptomatic asthma. Occasionally
THE ETIOLOGY OF ASTHMA.. JAMA. 1885;V(12):327–328. doi:10.1001/jama.1885.02391110019005