Do you suffer from asthma or care for someone who does? If so, it’s important to be aware of the best available asthma treatments so you can work with your doctor to determine the right treatment plan for you or your loved one. Though there is no cure for asthma, living with the disease doesn’t mean you can’t live a healthy, enjoyable life. With proper diagnoses and treatment, asthma can be controlled. If not controlled, however, it can result in serious and potentially life-threatening symptoms.
If you think you may have asthma or have recently been diagnosed, here are a few some key facts will help you better understand the disease, it’s symptoms, and treatments.
Asthma is a chronic disease that can affect people in many different ways with varying degrees of severity, but the most common symptoms include recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing and can often include tightness in the chest and coughing. There are three primary features of asthma that affect a person’s ability to carry oxygen into their lungs: obstruction, inflammation and irritability. Obstruction happens when muscular bands surrounding the airways tighten and constrict the airflow into the lungs. When the bronchial tubes swell up that’s referred to as inflammation. Untreated inflammation can lead to long-term damage and should be treated immediately. Asthma causes the airways to become more sensitive and allergies or dust particles can often cause irritation of the airways. (1)
Scientists aren’t sure of the exact causes of asthma, however, according to the American Lung Association the most common risk factors include having a parent with asthma, suffering from a severe respiratory infection as a child, exposure to certain chemical irritants or industrial dusts, and certain allergies. Smoking irritates the airways and regular smokers, or those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are also at a high risk of developing asthma. (2)
Though asthma is most common in children, it affects people of all ages. According to the World Health Organization, asthma affects nearly 235 million people worldwide and is the most common chronic disease among children (3). In the U.S., it’s estimated that asthma causes almost 2 million emergency room visits each year (1). Elderly account the majority of asthma related deaths and over 80% of asthma deaths occur in low income and lower-middle income countries were proper medication and treatment are harder to come by.
Asthma medications vary based on the individuals age, symptoms, and triggers. Daily asthma control medications such as inhaled corticosteroids or leukotriene modifiers are used to reduce inflammation and stop flare ups and are the primary prevention tool used to manage the long-term symptoms of asthma. For severe cases, daily treatment may include a combination of medications. For all but the most severe cases, when these medications are taken regularly as prescribed, asthma flare ups should be rare. (4)
Sometimes, however, attacks are unavoidable. When an attack happens, short-acting beta agonists like albuterol and levalbuterol are used to rapidly open the airways and ease symptoms. Quick-relief inhalers like these are also sometimes recommended by doctors to be used before exercise. (4)
Allergy medications can also play an important role in managing your asthma. Allergies, left untreated, can cause your asthma symptoms to worsen and can even trigger an attack. It is also important to understand your triggers and how to avoid them whenever possible.
Asthma treatments are often flexible and ebb and flow based on severity. Work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that is right for you based on your current symptoms.
https://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/what-is-asthma#1, https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma/asthma-symptoms-causes-risk-factors/asthma-risk-factors.html, https://www.who.int/features/factfiles/asthma/en/, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20369660