Know Your Triggers
And Control Your Asthma
Asthma is a chronic disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person.
Symptoms may occur several times in a day or week in affected individuals, and for some people become worse during physical activity or at night.
During an attack, the lining of the bronchial tubes swell, causing the airways to narrow reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs.
Having a relatively low fatality rate compared to other chronic diseases; recurrent symptoms frequently cause sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, reduced activity levels and school and work absenteeism.
Some asthma facts:
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 300 million people suffer from the disease and 255,000 people died from disease in 2005
- Death rates will increase by almost 20% in the next 10 years if urgent action isn't taken
- This is the most common chronic disease among children
- The disease is currently under-diagnosed and under-treated, creating a substantial burden to individuals and families, possibly restricting their activities for a lifetime.
Although the fundamental causes of the disease is not completely understood, the strongest risk factors for developing attacks are from inhaled triggers unique to each person.
Some common triggers for attacks are:
- Exposure to tobacco or wood smoke
- Breathing polluted air
- Inhaling other respiratory irritants such as perfumes or cleaning products
- Exposure to airway irritants at the workplace
- Breathing in allergy-causing substances (allergens) such as molds, dust, or animal dander
- An upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, flu, sinusitis, or bronchitis
- Exposure to cold dry weather
- Emotional excitement or stress
- Physical exertion or exercise
- Reflux of stomach acid
- sulfites-an additive to some foods and wine
- Menstruation-in some, not all, women
Asthma symptoms can be substantially reduced by avoiding your specific known triggers, allergens and respiratory irritants. For instance, if someone with the disease is sensitive to dust mites, exposure can be reduced by encasing mattresses and pillows in allergen impermeable covers, removing carpet from bedrooms, and vacuuming regularly.
Allergy testing may also be helpful in identifying allergens in patients with persistent problems. Common allergens include pet dander, dust mites, cockroach allergens, molds, and pollens.
If symptoms occur, short term medications can be used to relieve them, while people with moderate to severe problems must take long-term medication daily to control the underlying inflammation and prevent symptoms and attacks.
Long-term medication types include:
- Inhaled steroids (such as Azmacort, Vanceril, AeroBid, Flovent) prevent inflammation
- Leukotriene inhibitors (such as Singulair and Accolate)
- Anti-IgE therapy (Xolair), a medicine given by injection to patients with severe problems
- Long-acting bronchodilators (such as Serevent) helps open airways
- Cromolyn sodium (Intal) or nedocromil sodium
- Aminophylline or theophylline (not use as frequently as in the past)
Short-term or rescue medications include:
- Short-acting bronchodilators (inhalers), such as Proventil, Ventolin, Xopenex, and others
- Corticostreoids, (such as prednisone or methylprednisone) given by mouth or in the vein
Like any other chronic disease, asthma is a condition you live with every day of your life. You can have an attack any time-anywhere you are exposed to one of your triggers.
- Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled and symptoms sometimes decrease over time.
- Early diagnosis and treatment begun right away gives you a better chance to control it.
- With proper treatment, people suffering from the disease can have fewer and less severe attacks.
- without treatment, you will have more frequent and more severe attacks and can even die.
- Many people are forced to make compromises in their lifestyles to accommodate their disease.
- It is one of the most common reasons for emergency department visits and hospitalization.
- It costs the U.S. economy nearly $13 billion each year.
With proper self management and medical treatment, most people with asthma can lead normal lives. Seek professional medical advice if you or your child experience any symptoms of the disease to discuss possible treatment options.
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