What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic and potentially life-threatening lung disease in which airways become inflamed and/or swollen, making it hard to breathe. An estimated 25 million Americans suffer from asthma. Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma, accounting for 60% of asthmatics. Allergic asthma is triggered by inhaling allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollens, mold, etc. Although asthma is not curable, it most often can be well-controlled.
How is Asthma Diagnosed?
Our board-certified allergists will ask for a comprehensive medical history, including a history of asthma attacks or other asthma symptoms. Let them know how often and what time of day these symptoms occur.
In addition to a physical exam, where our doctors will listen to your breathing, they can use several diagnostic tests including, Spirometry and Fractional Exhaled Nitric Oxide (FeNO) testing.
- Avoid irritants (smoke, cold air, pollutants) and allergens (substances to which you are allergic). Immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be necessary for allergens that cannot be easily avoided.
- Take medications as prescribed. These medications are used for two things:
- To control the symptoms of asthma.
- To rescue someone from acute asthma symptoms.
- Monitor asthma symptoms and lung function daily through peak flow measurements and symptom identification. Respond to changes as they occur.
- Educate yourself and others about asthma management.
Medications Available for Asthma Management
Once a patient is diagnosed with asthma, it is important to have an asthma management plan. Without an asthma management plan, it is more likely that a patient will have asthma symptoms, and potentially have an asthma attack. A plan may include instructions and one or more of the following:
Preventative Maintenance Medication:
These medications are taken daily to achieve and maintain control of persistent asthma. It is essential patients take these as prescribed even when they do not have symptoms.
- Inhaled Corticosteroids(ICS) reduce inflammation in the lungs. These are common and considered the most effective for long-term control and management of asthma.
- Long-Acting Beta-Agonist(bronchodilators), also known as LABAs, help to relax the smooth muscles around the airways.
Quick Relief Medication:
Reliever inhalers are used to provide quick relief. when the patient experiences cough, wheezing, shortness of air, or chest tightness.
- Short-Acting Beta-Agonist(bronchodilators), also known as reliever inhalers, these help with acute airway distress.
- Spacers help deliver more of the medication into the lower airways verses into the mouth and throat. Metered-dose inhalers should be used with a spacer.
- Nebulizer is another device that helps deliver medication when an inhaler may not be an option. A mask should be used for young children and on patients with special needs.
- Oral steroids are strong anti-inflammatory medications used for more severe asthma and chronic/recurrent sinusitis.
- Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, builds up a patient’s tolerance to an allergen that may be triggering allergic and/or asthmatic symptoms. This treatment may be recommended for patients with allergic asthma and can reduce and suppress allergy symptoms.
- Biologics are for patients not well controlled with other medications and inhaler combinations or with severe chronic urticaria (hives). The main types of biologics currently being used are:
- Xolair (omalizumab)
- Nucala (mepolizumab)
- Dupixent (dupilumab)
- Fasenra (benralizumab)
How do I get an Asthma Management Plan?
Schedule an appointment today with one of our board-certified allergists to see if you are suffering from asthma, and move towards a clearer tomorrow with an asthma plan in hand.