Did you know that asthma affects over 20 million Americans and up to 300 million people worldwide? Yet despite asthma being one of the most common chronic diseases it is often misunderstood. This can make a diagnosis seem overwhelming.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with asthma, take comfort from the fact that we know more about this disease and how to manage it than ever before. There are many things you can do to control asthma and reduce its impact on your life.
Firstly do some research. It is important that you understand the condition and how it is treated. If you just leave your doctor to make the healthcare decisions you will not get that sense of control and responsibility that can lead to confidently living with asthma.
Asthma is essentially an uncontrolled inflammation of the airways that makes the tubes you breathe through narrower. This can cause shortness of breath, wheezing as air whistles through the narrowed airways, and coughing as your body tries to get rid of excess mucus that builds up and starts to block the airways. If an asthma attack is left untreated it can result in hospitalization.
Once the severity of your condition is determined your treatment can begin. This is likely to have two components, a short-term reliever and a longer-term treatment.
The long-term treatment will probably be in the form of a steroid based anti-inflammatory medication. However these are not the same type of steroids used by unscrupulous athletes. Do not expect to start developing muscles you never knew you had.
The short-term reliever medication is designed to bring asthma attacks under control by opening the airways. This type of medication is called a bronchodilator and is usually effective, but does not address the underlying inflammation. That is why it is important to use both components of the treatment.
Follow the instructions given by your doctor even when you do not have any asthma symptoms. The absence of symptoms does not mean your lungs are healthy again. Even when you feel at your best it is likely there is some degree of inflammation in your airways.
If you feel uneasy about using medications and would rather try an alternative therapy speak to your doctor about it. There are alternatives that have been successful with some asthmatics, but do not try any of them without consulting your doctor first.
Start monitoring how your asthma behaves in different circumstances. There are many things that can trigger the narrowing of the airways. It could be an allergic reaction to something, the result of incorrect exercise or the result of a chest infection.
If the underlying cause of your asthma is an allergic reaction you may be given medication or immunotherapy to reduce your body’s reaction to allergens. There are also steps you can take to reduce the presence of allergens in your home and the likelihood of encountering allergens elsewhere.
Basically the real secret to dealing with asthma is to understand the condition and how it affects you. The more you know what sets it off, what can ease it and how you should respond to it, the more you are able to minimize its effect on your life.