Are you taking your asthma seriously?
Did you know that asthma kills approximately 5,000 people a year in the US? In fact, this chronic disease affects between 5 and 10 percent of Americans, and is responsible for an astounding 2 million emergency visits a year. So if you didn’t think that your asthma was that big a deal…well maybe you should read on.
Have you ever ended up in the hospital with an asthma attack? This frightening event can happen even to those who think they have their asthma under control. In fact, asthma can be triggered by an astounding list of irritants, including allergens or cigarette smoke. If you have asthma you may also have become familiar with other triggers - including stress, exercise or not properly following your medication schedule.
However, it may be that the majority of hospitalizations for asthma are the result of an easy to fix problem. A recent study indicates that the majority of hospital visits are because patients are not using their steroid inhalers as prescribed! The study included 405 adult asthma patients and the results showed some interesting trends:
- About half of patients do not use their steroid inhalers properly or as prescribed.
- Missing doses was a significant problem. Missing 1 dose out of every 4 doubled the risk of landing in the hospital.
- As you might expect, 60% of hospitalizations could have been avoided just by using medications properly.
- Poor medication adherence was also associated with emergency department visits and the need to use oral steroid medications.
If you have asthma that has been defined as persistent, you are likely taking inhalant steroids. Many patients don’t adhere to their prescriptions strictly enough, and most don’t even realize that that asthma control needs to be re-assessed each time a patient sees their physician. Assessment needs to include an individualized approach (since each patient reacts differently to different medications). Better control can mean altering medications and/or prescribing different dosages.
Asthma sufferers should expect to be able to keep their asthma in check, but how do you know that you’ve got your asthma under control? Look for the following 5 characteristics:
- You can exercise without difficulty or shortness of breath.
- You haven’t been given Albuterol (a prescribed bronchodilator) to use.
- Your doctor gives your lungs the thumbs up!
- You aren’t experiencing asthma symptoms regularly - either during the day or night time.
- Your asthma isn’t affecting your regular daily function.
If you feel that you don’t have your asthma under control, please set up a consultation with your immunologist or allergist.
News Release, January 5, 2006
American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (ACAAI)