Asthma Treatment and Methods of Control
Asthma is a chronic disease. The frustrating fact is that it is incurable, but there are nonetheless many methods, tools and medications, to help treat or control asthma symptoms. In addition, some practical benchmarks can also be used to estimate the progress of a patient’s treatment.
1. Helpful tools: The Peak Flow Meter
This little device is simple and easy to handle. When you blow air into it, the flow meter displays your peak flow volume directly. The presented measurement can tell you how well the air flows from your lungs, which helps you to control your asthma. And your doctor can give you clear directions about how long you need to use this tool for testing, how to analyze the measurements and what medicines you should take according to the measurements. Some patients prefer to use it every morning for measurements records, while some may use it intermittently.
You may have an optimal measuring number that is tested for two or three weeks to prove good asthma control. You can determine your asthma by judging every test with your optimal number. When the peak flow is declining, it may indicate an oncoming serious asthma attack. This meter can also be used check the effectiveness of drug treatment after taking asthma medications.
2. Preventive checkups
Visiting your doctor every two to six weeks should be included into your asthma control. When your asthma is under control, you can adjust the regular checkups to once per month or twice per year.
It will finally become useful to record your asthma attacks, diagnoses and symptoms because when you come to see the doctor, he will question you these details or your daily activities in order to have a better judgment of your asthma control progresses.
3. Good control
If there are some positive signs, your asthma may be well controlled:
- If severe and chronic symptoms such as coughing and breathing difficulties are well prevented, or these symptoms occur less than two days a week.
- You feel well with only a few doses of quick relief medicine, or you take them for no more than two days a week.
- Your lungs function well.
- Your activity stays at normal levels.
- You have normal sleep patterns or your waking up caused by asthma symptoms, happens no more than two nights a month.
- There is no need for emergency medical treatment.
- Asthma attacks that require taking inhaled corticosteroids and happen less than once a year.
- The peak flow remains over 80% of your own optimal number.
These benchmarks are often achieved by avoiding the unfavorable factors that can worsen your asthma, as well as regularly consulting with your doctor. You may also need to pay more attention to other factors that could interfere with your asthma management. Avoiding asthma and asthma symptom triggers, is also important for a good asthma control.
Generally, medication for asthma treatment can be classified into two types: quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medications can be used to relieve asthma symptoms quickly if not immediately, while long-term control medication is intended to reduce inflammation of airways and prevent symptoms from occurring.
There are three common forms of asthma medication: pills, powders and mists. But the most commonly used asthma medication is powders and mists, which are taken by patients through a little gadget called an inhaler. Using inhalers can help medication travel through airways to a patients lungs more efficiently.
Alternatively, patients can take medication through a nebulizer, which can provide them with larger, more continuous doses. A nebulizer can vaporize saline solution medication into steady foggy vapors, which can be better inhaled by asthma sufferers.
2) Long-Term Medication
With the aim of preventing asthma symptoms, long-term control medication is often recommended to be taken daily. Inhaled corticosteroids are considered to be the most useful ones compared to other long-term control medicines, as they can relieve swelling and inflammation of airways substantially. And this medication can also significantly reduce the risk of chain reactions of asthma attacks caused by inflammation. However, it’s not easy to take this medication daily.
Many medicines carry side effects and corticosteroids are no different. The most common side effect of corticosteroids is mouth infections, also called thrush. When corticosteroids are left in the mouth or throat, thrush is likely to occur. You can rinse your mouth thoroughly after inhalation to avoid thrush, or you can use some devices to help you avoid it, such as spacers and holding chambers. If patients take this medication for a long time, inhaled corticosteroids can also add to the chances of cataracts and osteoporosis.
You doctor may also prescribe other long-term control medicines for you that are also designed to prevent you from inflammation of airways. And most of them are taken orally. Possible medicines may include leukotriene modifiers, nedocreomil, cromolyn, theophylline or long-acting B2-agonists (which do require taking with little inhaled corticosteroids).
3) Quick-relief Medicines
This type of medicines can offer immediate relieves when asthma symptoms occur. One of the most commonly used quick-relief medicines are bronchodilators (inhaled short-acting B2-agonists) that can alleviate tight muscles near your airways, providing better conditions for air to pass through them.
A quick-relief inhaler can be used when your asthma symptoms are first discovered. Most patients like to carry a quick relief inhaler all the time, but it shouldn’t be used for more than two days within one week. Quick-relief medicines are incapable of reducing airway inflammations. So it can’t replace the efficacy of long-term control medicines.
4) Emergency Care
Emergency care is necessary for you when the peak flow becomes lower than normal levels or your medication can’t relieve your asthma attack. You can dial the local emergency number for help or ask others to help you go to the nearest emergency room.
During emergency care, lifesaving treatment usually contains direct oxygen and increased dosage of medicines. It’s likely emergency staff would administer short-acting B-2 agonists, bronchodilators, systemic intravenous or oral steroids, B-2 agonists, inhalation anesthetics, anticholinergics, intravenous magnesium sulfate or the dissociative anesthetic. If you are experiencing respiratory arrest, emergency staff may also resort to intubation or mechanical ventilation to save a patients life.
Quick-relief medicine is able to relieve the wheezing symptoms of young children, but long-term control medicines should be applied to relieve symptoms in infants or young children, who have frequent symptoms after the age of six.
Similar to adults, inhaled corticosteroids, cromolyn and montelukast can also be used in children. Usually, the treatment will last for four to six weeks. If no positive results are noticed, stop this treatment. Inhaled corticosteroids can slow down children’s growth, but this side effect is very small and only noticeable in the beginning of the treatment.
6) The Elderly
When adding medicine for asthma treatment in elderly people to a list of existing medications they may interact with each other, so it may be necessary to make adjustments to avoid medical interactions. For example, aspirin, beta blockers, pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicine are able to inhibit the efficacy of asthma medicines or may exacerbate asthma symptoms. Besides, older people may have some difficulty in holding their breath for about ten seconds after inhaling medicine. Fortunately, spacers can help older patients to overcome this problem.
Inhaled corticosteroids also increase the risk of osteoporosis, which is more prominent among older asthma sufferers, especially those with weak bones. But they can take vitamin D or calcium pills to keep healthy bones while they are involving with other treatments.
7) Pregnant women
To ensure good oxygen supply to their fetus, pregnant women are required to take proper asthma control. Low birth weight and premature birth often occur to babies whose mother is suffering from asthma. Although taking asthma medicines poses many risks to pregnant women, none of them can outweigh the risk linked to an asthma attack.
8) Vitamin D
According to a team of researchers in London, they have found that Vitamin D has the ability to lessen asthma symptoms. Their discovery may provide a new method of treatment for debilitating and chronic disease cases.
Although steroid tablets are the common medicine prescribed for asthma patients, this medicine may have negative side effects. What’s more, there is one kind of asthma that has a resistant reaction to steroid treatment. This type of asthma often has higher risks of severe or fatal asthma attacks for sufferers.
Researchers have found that asthma patients have higher levels of IL-17A. It is a natural compound of the immune system, which can protect their bodies from infection. High levels of IL-17A can cut down the side effects of steroids, but it can also aggravate asthma symptoms. Asthma sufferers who have taken steroids have the highest level of IL-17A, but vitamin D can reduce IL-17A generation significantly. So researchers believe that vitamin D provides a useful and safe asthma treatment.
5. Non-medical treatments
Many people believe that unconventional, alternative treatment can also be helpful in relieving asthma symptoms, but there is no firm evidence to support this approach. Some studies have found that air ionizers, acupuncture, or dust mite controls work little or have no effect at all on the treatment of lung function or asthma symptoms. Yet, there haven’t yet been any final conclusions made about the effectiveness of osteopathic, physiotherapeutic, chiropractic or respiratory therapeutic methods. Although homeopathy may be able to lighten the severity of asthma symptoms, the evidences is not clear.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is designed to promote common knowledge for asthma control. But the authors here are not medically trained. You should not rely upon any information mentioned here to replace individual consultations with your doctor or other qualified health care provider.