Asthma is a chronic and serious disease that cannot be cured. However, with the proper medication and physician supervision, asthma can be managed and controlled.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airway inflammation in its victims, making it difficult to breathe. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. Asthma attacks and symptoms can be triggered by any number of things, from pollen and dust mites to exercise, smoke, and extreme weather changes.
It’s an extremely common disease - according to the CDC and Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 25 million Americans (or 1 in 13) have asthma.
How Asthma Affects the Immune System
Though it is not an autoimmune disorder, asthma does have a close relationship with the body’s immune system. The body’s immune system typically protects a person against foreign bacteria and viruses. However, for asthmatics, the immune system’s very function may cause a worsening of symptoms. Asthma and allergies are closely related, and an allergic reaction can trigger an asthma attack.
What Are Your Asthma Treatment Options?
Effective asthma treatment requires asthmatics to carefully track their symptoms and measure how well their lungs are working. The key to managing this chronic disease is to know your stuff.
People with asthma have treatment plans to manage their symptoms. The Mayo Clinic states that the proper execution of these plans typically requires asthmatics to follow three important steps.
1. Tracking of symptoms
It is important to write down symptoms each day in an asthma diary. Recording symptoms can help people to recognize when they need to make treatment adjustments.
2. Record how well your lungs are working.
This involves performing the two primary lung function tests. A peak flow test can be performed at home and indicates how fast one can force air out of their lungs. A spirometry test, which is more often performed at a doctor’s office, measures how much air one’s lungs can hold and how much can be exhaled in one second.
3. Adjust treatment according to your asthma action plan.
The majority of asthmatics have at least two types of medications: long-term and quick-relief.
Long-term control medication (such as inhaled corticosteroids) are the most important medications used to keep asthma under control. These are preventive medications that treat the airway inflammation that leads to asthma symptoms. Used daily, they can reduce or even eliminate asthma flare-ups. Quick-relief, or rescue medications, contain fast-acting medicines, such as albuterol, that quickly opens up the airway to make breathing easier. When to take these medications is dictated by each patient’s individual asthma action plan.
There are more invasive and involved treatment options available for people with severe asthma. Bronchial thermoplasty is an FDA-approved procedure that delivers “precisely-controlled thermal energy” to the airways. This procedure can reduce the frequency of severe asthma attacks, and side effects include coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Managing the Side Effects of Asthma Medications
Inhaled steroids are the primary asthma medications used. Proper usage of these medications, in coordination with an asthma action plan, should result in fewer symptoms and flare-ups. They are typically administered via inhaler, though other delivery mechanisms exist.
Inhaled steroids have few side effects, especially when taken in low doses. A small number of people may experience hoarseness or thrush, which is a type of yeast infection. Such infections can be easily treated with prescription antifungal lozenges or rinse.
Difficulty tolerating side effects should be taken up with one’s doctor.
Will Asthma Medications Cure Your Asthma?
Currently, asthma is a controllable condition but it cannot be cured. Asthma is also a family of chronic diseases, rather than a single disease. This means that a “silver bullet” cure is extremely unlikely. However, modern technology is starting to provide ways to manage asthma beyond quarterly visits to a doctor.
Take Aluna, for example.
Aluna is an innovative, scientifically-accurate, and portable spirometry exam and asthma management platform paired with a mobile game kids love. Developed by four asthmatic UC Berkeley grads with guidance from the world’s leading pediatric pulmonologists, Aluna seeks to shed light on childhood asthma by providing better data for doctors and parents while coaching kids to develop good asthma management habits.
This regular testing of lung function helps both doctors and patients to more closely monitor respiratory health over time and create better, more informed treatment plans. Proper usage of Aluna will result in better control of asthma.
If your child lives in California and has been diagnosed with asthma, contact us for more information on how they can participate in the Aluna clinical trial. Get valuable information for you and your child’s doctor regarding their FEV1 scores.