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Asthma Center

Asthma Treatment

Asthma treatment
Asthma can't be cured and is a chronic, lifelong condition. Even when you feel fine, the respiratory disease can flare up at any time.  But with today's knowledge and treatments, most people diagnosed with asthma are able to manage the disease and experience few, if any, symptoms. Therefore, the goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease. You, too, can live a normal, active life. Asthma treatment can:

  • Allow normal activity levels
  • Allow sleep through the night
  • Help maintain good lung function
  • Reduce the need for quick-relief medicines
  • Prevent asthma attacks
  • Prevent chronic and troublesome symptoms (coughing, shortness of breath )

Although there is no cure for asthma yet, asthma can be controlled through medication treatment and management of environmental triggers.  When you first begin treatment, you will see your doctor about every 2 to 6 weeks. Once your asthma is under control, your doctor may want to see you anywhere from once a month to twice a year.  Doctors also recommend that you create an "asthma action plan" to learn to prevent and control asthma attacks. 

Medications
Asthma is treated with two kinds of medicines: quick-relief medicines to stop asthma symptoms and long-term control medicines to prevent symptoms.  Doctors usually use a graded approach to prescribing medicines and change the dose or type of medicine based on evidence of results and effectiveness.  The basic difference between asthma medication is that long-term control medicines help reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms while quick-relief medicines relieve asthma symptoms during flare up. 

Long-term asthma control medicines
The most effective long-term medicines reduce airway inflammation. Reducing inflammation helps prevent the chain reaction that causes asthma symptoms. When taken daily, these medications help prevent troublesome asthma symptoms. However, long-term medications don't provide quick relief from symptoms. Asthma medications include:

  • Cromolyn and nedocromil
  • Inhaled corticosteroids
  • Inhaled long-acting beta2-agonists
  • Leukotriene modifiers
  • Theophylline

Quick-relief asthma medications
People diagnosed with asthma shouldn't use quick-relief medicines in place of prescribed long-term control medicines because these medications don't reduce inflammation in the airways.  Instead, quick-relief asthma medications relax tight muscles around your airways when during flareup. This allows the airways to open so air can flow through.

Controlling environmental triggers
You must also remove the triggers in your environment that can make your asthma worse.  Some triggers listed below may not affect you or other factors that do affect you may not be on the list.  Work with your doctor to identify which triggers may cause your asthma to flare up if you come in contact with them.  Possible triggers include:

  • Allergens - dust, animal dander, cockroaches, house mites, mold, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers
  • Air pollution, small particles and ozone
  • Exercise or physical activity
  • Foods (especially sulfites)
  • Irritants - chemicals or dust in the workplace, compounds in home décor products, and sprays (such as hairspray)
  • Medications - aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and nonselective beta-blockers
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Viral upper respiratory infections such as colds

Asthma action plan
Your asthma action plan will help you monitor asthma symptoms and outline the steps that you need to take in the case of an asthma attack.  You'll record your peak flow number, medications, and actions steps in the case of emergencies.  Remember to get regular asthma checkups in order to prevent or control asthma. 

Emergency treatment
Asthma flare-ups may require immediate medical attention. During an emergency, you may be given oxygen and more medicines, as well as medicines at higher doses than you take at home. Such treatment can save your life. Call your doctor or proceed to the emergency room for help if:

  • Medications don't relieve an asthma attack
  • Peak flow readings are less than half of your personal best peak flow number
  • You have trouble walking and talking because you're out of breath
  • You have blue lips or fingernails
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