• What's New in Asthma Treatment Research?

  • Can't Catch Your Breath? Breathe Easier by Getting to Know Your Asthma Treatment Options

    Asthma is a long-term disease, and asthma treatment aims only to control the disease, not cure it. It is also a highly capricious illness, with symptoms changing from person to person or an individual’s symptoms worsen or lessen seasonally.

    Besides having individual symptoms, people with asthma also have individual ‘triggers’ which can set off or worsen asthma symptoms. Hence, it is important to identify and control these triggers. Some examples of triggers are pollen or air pollution which can be controlled by limiting the time spent outdoors when the levels of these substances are high. Different medications can also be triggers, for example Asprin (ASA) can trigger asthma attacks in 20% of adults, and therefore it is crucial to inform a doctor or health care provider when receiving new medication about being an asthmatic.

    Even though exercise can possibly be a trigger, it isn’t one that should be avoided as it is part of a healthy lifestyle. A doctor should be consulted should any problems with exercising arise as it indicates that some aspect of the asthma treatment is inappropriate.

    Therefore, in order to devise an asthma treatment the doctor must prescribe individualized medication to help minimize a person’s specific asthma symptoms.

    A doctor will also prescribe the lowest dose of medication possible to curtail possible side effects while, maximizing effectiveness.

    Finding an ideal dose may require experimentation with a variety of doses and medications. Regular visits to a doctor will allow symptoms to be monitored and the asthma treatment adjusted if necessary.

    Asthma treatments generally can be taken in two forms: either as a pill or using a device called an inhaler which allows the medicine to be transported directly to the lungs[1]. As was said earlier, the lowest amount of medication is used which leads doctors to prescribe more inhalers than pills, since the dose of an inhaler is in micrograms (one millionth of a gram) whereas a dose of a pill is significantly more being in grams. As not all inhalers are used in the same way, ask a doctor or other health care provider to demonstrate the proper way to use the inhaler.

    The majority of asthmatics take two kinds of medication, as each asthma medication treats only one aspect of the condition. The first type of medication is controllers, also called “preventers”. Controllers reduce inflammation in the airways through a daily dose. Controller medication ensures the lessening of symptoms over time. However, do not stop taking controllers once all symptoms have abated, for if you do the airway inflammation may return. Instead, talk to your health care provider to minimize your dose.

    The second type of asthma treatment is relievers. Relievers are designed to immediately alleviate symptom such as coughing or wheezing, but they have no effect on the inflammation. Consequently, a controller is needed to treat the underlying inflammation. It is also important to monitor your reliever usage in case of an increase indicative of the worsening of the general condition.

    Regardless of the asthma treatment, it is important to regularly contact a doctor or health care provider so ensure the asthma treatment is appropriately adjusted to each individual case.

    [1]  National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma/treatment.html