It’s Time to Control Asthma – World Asthma Day – 7th May 2013
Today marks World Asthma Day. This is an annual event sponsored and organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA).
GINA seek to improve asthma awareness and care around the world, and this years World Asthma Day theme is “You can Control Your Asthma”
Asthma control is the goal of treatment and can be achieved in the vast majority of asthma patients with proper management. A person’s asthma is under control when he or she has:
- No (or minimal) asthma symptoms.
- No waking at night due to asthma.
- No (or minimal) need to use “reliever” medication.
- The ability to do normal physical activity and exercise.
- Normal (or near-normal) lung function test results (PEF and FEV1).
- No (or very infrequent) asthma attacks.
GINA has set out a 4 step strategy for achieving and maintaining asthma control:
- Develop patient/doctor partnership.
- Identify and reduce exposure to risk factors.
- Assess, treat, and monitor asthma.
- Manage asthma exacerbations.
Under this strategy, asthma is treated in a stepwise manner to achieve and maintain control of the disease. Medication is increased—“stepped up”—when asthma is not controlled, and gradually stepped down once good control is achieved and maintained for a period of time.
What is asthma?
It is estimated that 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma; so understanding what it is crucial. Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by recurrent breathing problems and symptoms such as breathlessness, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing. During normal breathing, air flows freely into and out of the lungs. But when asthma is not under control, the airways of the lungs are thick, swollen, and inflamed. The airways become overly sensitive to environmental changes, and an asthma attack can happen easily. During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways swells, muscles around the airways tighten, and mucus clogs the tiny airways in the lungs, making breathing difficult.
Asthma symptoms vary from hour to hour, from day to day, from week to week, and over months. They are often worse at night and in the early hours of the morning. The severity of asthma also varies from individual to individual.
Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be effectively treated. Research shows that with proper treatment, nearly all asthma patients can achieve and maintain good asthma control, enabling them to participate in school, work, and other normal activities and prevent visits to the emergency department and hospital.
Most people with asthma need two types of medications: controller medications (especially anti-inflammatory agents such as inhaled corticosteroids) that are taken every day over the long term to keep symptoms and attacks from starting, and reliever medications (rapid-acting bronchodilators) that must be kept on hand at all times to treat attacks or provide quick relief of symptoms.
What Causes Asthma?
People with asthma have chronic inflammation in their lungs, and airways that narrow more easily than those of people without asthma in response to a variety of factors. The factors that can set off an asthma attack (sometimes called “triggers”) include inhaled allergens (such as dust mites, pollen, and cat and dog allergens), tobacco smoke, air pollution, exercise, strong emotional expressions (such as crying or laughing hard), chemical irritants, and certain drugs (aspirin and beta-blockers). Each person with asthma reacts to a different set of factors, and identification of these factors and how to avoid them is a major step for each individual in learning how to control their disease.