Understanding Asthma and the Treatment Options

Asthma | May 14, 2014 | Author: The Super Pharmacist

Asthma

Understanding Asthma and the Treatment Options

Asthma is a chronic lung disease marked by attacks of severe spasm in the airways of the lungs. Inflammation of the airways and tightening of the muscles surrounding them can lead to airway obstruction and trigger an asthma attack. Some airway obstruction is always present in people suffering from asthma. The factors that cause an asthma attack in one person need not necessarily trigger an attack in another person. There are, nonetheless, some common triggers which include cigarette smoke, mold, dust, pollen, cold weather, animal dander, air pollutants, certain materials present in the industrial and household products, infections, and exercise.

Asthma airwaySymptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • Coughing - Coughing caused by asthma tends to get worse at night and may make it difficult for the patient to fall asleep.
  • Wheezing - This symptom is mainly present in children. It is a whistling sound that occurs when the patient breathes.
  • Shortness of breath - Patients may have difficulty catching their breath.
  • Chest tightness - The patient may feel that something is sitting on their chest.

All of these symptoms may not be present in a person with asthma. Also, having these symptoms does not always mean that the person has asthma. Doctors usually perform a lung function test to determine whether the patient has asthma. They also carry out a physical examination and inquire about the medical history of the person. Severe asthma attacks can be fatal and thus the patient should seek treatment when they first notice the symptoms. Proper treatment eases the symptoms and prevents the condition from worsening.

Treatment and Self-Care

Before taking the asthma treatments prescribed by your doctor, you should find out whether they are effective. You should also ask if these treatments cause any side effects. The inhaler is the most common treatment for asthma. Some pills are also available for asthma. The inhaler may hold bronchodilators (airway openers) and anti-inflammatory drugs. You have to use the inhaler correctly to get maximum relief. You may also need rescue inhalers. These are medications that relieve asthma symptoms within a couple of minutes. When the airways are open and relaxed, you will be able to breathe easily.

Day-to-Day Living

Asthma is not a medical condition that you can easily manage on your own. This is why you need knowledge about factors that may cause an asthma attack. If you suffer from asthma, you need to watch what you eat since certain food items are known to trigger asthma. Physical activity may also trigger an attack. However, exercise increases your endurance levels. Consult with your doctor and find ways to incorporate moderate levels of physical activity into your daily routine.

Other Treatment Options

Reliever Inhaler

If you have asthma, you should definitely have a reliever inhaler. This type of inhaler holds medicines that, when inhaled, relieve the asthma symptoms immediately. They relax the tightened muscles surrounding the airways and open them up. Whenever you have an asthma attack, you need to inhale a dose of the reliever inhaler. If you have to use the inhaler more than three times a week, it is a clear sign that your asthma is not well controlled. In this case, you should consult your doctor and get your symptoms reviewed.

Preventers

They make the airways less sensitive by controlling the swelling in them. This reduces your risk of severe asthma attacks. The preventer medicine needs to be taken regularly even if you are feeling well. Preventers don't give immediate relief. Also, not everyone suffering from asthma is prescribed the preventer medicine.

Long-Acting Reliever Inhalers

They work in the same way as reliever inhalers, but provide relief that lasts up to 12 hours. The usual reliever inhaler offers relief for only four hours. These inhalers should be used only if you are also using a steroid based preventer inhaler.

Combination Inhalers

Some inhalers contain combinations of ingredients. These are normally the combination of a preventer component and long-acting reliever component. An example of this is Symbicort. Symbicort is recommended after preventers have been used previously with limited success or for severe asthma conditions. The combination of LAR and Preventers is also recommended for use as a regular dosage with additional doses to be used when required for attacks. These additional doses increases the total therapy during those times when asthmatics need it the most and has been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of future attacks. Research suggests that a dosage of Symbicort is equally effective at relieving short-term symptoms of asthma when compared to salbutamol.

Steroid Tablets

You will probably have to take a short course of steroid tablets (produce immediate relief) if your symptoms become worse.

Latest Treatment Options, Research, and Future Possibilities

A Ray of Hope for Patients Suffering From Severe Asthma

Experts in Japan have come up with a new treatment option for patients who are resistant to a certain kind of steroid. Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences and Keio University in Japan have developed a new treatment option for asthma patients who are resistant to corticosteroid. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.  The researchers claim that a common anti-psychotic drug (Pimozide), helps in overcoming steroid resistance in people suffering from severe asthma.

Heat Therapy Helps Patients Breathe Easy

The doctors at University of Rochester Medical Center have developed a kind of heat therapy called Bronchial Thermoplasty that helps asthma sufferers improve breathing. Bronchial Thermoplasty eases asthma symptoms by supplying low heat to affected airway muscles. Currently, the treatment is only offered by URMC. Bronchial Thermoplasty is a non-drug FDA-approved therapy for patients who have severe asthma symptoms that cannot be controlled with standard treatments.

New Drug May Treat Asthma by Taking Care of the Underlying Medical Condition

Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have developed an injectable drug called Dupilumab. The drug treats the underlying medical condition associated with asthma. Clinical trials conducted on 104 patients have been very successful.

The Future of Asthma Treatment

In a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers at King's College London claim that Vitamin D can be a potential treatment for asthma. Asthma is a debilitating condition that affects over 5.4 million people in the United Kingdom. Steroids are sometimes used to treat severe asthma. While this treatment is effective, it has harmful side effects. Also, some patients suffer from a variation of asthma, resistant to steroids. Over 200 anti-asthmatic agents are currently being used in researches. These include both new and existing drugs. Comparative studies have proved that leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) are just as effective as steroids in alleviating asthma symptoms. The LTRA drugs control asthma symptoms by blocking leukotrienes, the agents which cause inflammation of the airways. A large number of LTRA drugs are undergoing clinical trials. Resiquimod which is used for treating skin cancer has been effective in preventing asthma in clinical studies conducted on animals. Researchers are conducting studies to see if it produces the same effect on humans. The caffeine related drug Theophylline has been replaced by safer alternatives. Variations of this drug that produce fewer side effects are also being tested. As researchers develop better ways to diagnose asthma and understand the effect of existing drugs on the human body, they will be able to develop more effective treatments. In particular, researchers are looking for biomarkers that may help in research and diagnosis. Research into airways diseases may also help the researchers develop a better understanding of the progress of the disease.

References

http://www.webmd.com/asthma/ http://www.asthmaaustralia.org.au/Asthma_treatments.aspx http://www.riken.jp/ http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/mary-parkes/services/Bronchial-Thermoplasty.cfm http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/21/us-regeneron-sanofi-asthma-idUSBRE94K0I020130521      

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