Finding the right asthma treatment can be a bit like putting together a puzzle when you’re not even sure you have all the pieces. Luckily, the doctors at Respacare work tirelessly to identify your core medical needs and put together a personalized solution so you can breathe easier — literally.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes severe, sometimes life-threatening difficulty breathing. The disease is characterized by swollen or inflamed airways that can become even more irritated once exposed to environmental or conditional triggers, such as dust, pet dander, smoke, outdoor allergens, a viral infection, stress, or even cold weather. When that happens, the airways swell, and surrounding muscles may simultaneously constrict, causing a devastating decrease in airflow — what’s commonly referred to as an asthma attack.
There is no known cause for asthma, and the disease can affect anyone at any time, regardless of age. Some experts believe that certain contributing factors, such as family history, existing medical conditions, obesity, smoking habits, living conditions, and occupation, could increase the risk of developing asthma.
Asthma presents somewhat differently from person to person and may even change from flare-up to flare-up in the same individual. It’s not uncommon to confuse asthma with a cold or lack of fitness, especially when symptoms emerge later in life or after a workout, but asthma is persistent and won’t go away on its own.
Generally speaking, asthma is accompanied by:
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing that’s worse at night or early in the morning
- Trouble sleeping due to breathing issues
- Chest tightness or pain
- Wheezing or whistling during exhalation
- Flare-ups linked to common asthma triggers like exercise or cold air
Options For Asthma Treatment
Treating breath disorders can be a complex process, but finding the right approach is important not only for comfort but for overall quality of life. Left untreated, asthma can cause long-term lung damage, and breathing difficulties can progress even to a life-threatening point.
Asthma treatment starts with a diagnosis, at which time the patient typically receives a classification ranging from mild intermittent asthma to severe persistent asthma. This classification acts as an indicator of how advanced and disruptive the condition is and helps dictate the course of treatment, which may include:
There is a huge array of pharmaceutical options available for the treatment of asthma. Long-term medications like inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, theophylline, and long-acting beta-agonists are taken on a regular basis, typically every day, to cast a wide net over symptoms and keep inflammation under control.
There are also quick-relief medications, also called rescue meds, used to treat an acute attack or to prevent an attack if the patient knows he or she will be exposed to a confirmed trigger. These rescue meds include short-acting beta-agonists and oral and IV corticosteroids.
For those who have asthma triggered by specific allergens like ragweed or dog fur, allergy shots may provide a long-term solution. Immunotherapy involves getting a series of shots that may last as long as five years. The shots are frequent at first and then taper off. The goal is to reduce the body’s immune system reaction, so the lungs are no longer triggered by the allergen.
Patients with asthma that doesn’t respond to less invasive interventions may want to consider bronchial thermoplasty. This procedure uses heat to change the musculature inside the airways, impeding bronchial spasms and, hopefully, keeping airways open and reducing the frequency of asthma attacks.
No one approach is right for everyone, and it’s important to remember that while there’s no cure for asthma, the disease can be controlled with the right combination of treatments and a comprehensive, expertly crafted asthma action plan.
Learn More About Asthma Treatment
If you suspect you have asthma or if you’ve been diagnosed but need guidance regarding treatment and your long-term prognosis, the team at Respacare would love to help. We specialize in pulmonary issues, sleep disorders, and allergies and pride ourselves on creating a patient-first practice focused on respect and compassionate care. To make an appointment, contact us today.