Have you been diagnosed with asthma or are your loved ones suffering from asthma?In Malaysia, a National Health and Morbidity survey 2011 (MOH) showed there was a significant increase of self -reported asthma patients approximately about 6.4% compared to previous years 4.2% in 1996 and 4.5% in year 2006.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic airway inflammatory disease that affects people of all ages which often starts during childhood. It is characterised by symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough that varies over time and in intensity together with variable airflow limitation.
You will have a better understanding on asthma if you know how the airways work. Airways are made of long tube-like passages that transport air in and out of the respiratory system. An asthmatic person would have inflamed airways with thickened wall and covered with thick sticky secretions known as mucous. Hence, this will make it harder for them to breathe as this narrows the airways, causing less air flow into the lungs.
During the exacerbation (asthma attack) period, the airway will swell up and becomes even narrower. The bronchial muscles will tighten the airways when something triggers the symptoms. These triggers will cause the inflammatory cells to produce more mucous that blocks the airway passage.
6 Things you need to know about asthma
1. Asthma is a chronic airway inflammatory disorder
Asthma is a long-term disease. However, it is a reversible disease with the right treatment that treats the underlying inflammation.
2. What are the triggers? What are your allergies?
There are many triggers that will induce asthma such as pollen, dust mites, cold, animals, dust and etc. Identify what your triggers are, so you can avoid frequent asthma symptoms. Keep a detailed diary and take note of your triggers; this will help to prevent frequent asthma flare-ups; also known as asthma attacks.
3. Is your asthma under control? Do observe these symptoms for four weeks.
- Day time symptoms more than twice per week?
- Interrupted sleep due to asthma?
- Reliever needed for symptoms more than twice per week?
- Any activity limitation (sports and etc.) due to asthma?
If you have NONE of these symptoms, your asthma is Well Controlled.
If you have 1-2 of these 4 symptoms, your asthma is Partly Controlled.
If you have 3-4 of these 4 symptoms, your asthma is Uncontrolled.
4. Is reliever inhaler sufficient for treating asthma?
Usually, you will be prescribed with a fast-acting reliever inhaler (blue in colour) when you are newly diagnosed with asthma. It does not treat the underlying airway inflammation but provides rapid relief from the bronchospasm that narrows the airway during an asthma attack. It should be kept with you at all times to treat asthma symptoms such as wheezing, cough, shortness of breath and etc. Preventer inhaler will be given later depending on your asthma control.
Preventer inhalers contain a low dose of corticosteroid. It does not help during an asthma attack but treats the underlying inflammation and swelling. It will protect the airway from frequent flare-ups when you are exposed to the triggers.
5. Do I still have asthma if I’m feeling fine? No wheezing, No shortness of breath, chest tightness, cough and etc?
The answer is yes, you still have asthma. Asthma is a prolonedg inflammation of your airway. Although, you might be feeling fine during your symptom-free days, it does not mean, you don’t have asthma. Asthma cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be controlled.
Therefore, you still need to treat your asthma with the preventer inhalers as the swelling and inflammation can lead to progressive changes and harm your lungs.
6. Still having frequent asthma attacks despite being on medication?
Check your inhaler technique and know your device well. There are many types of inhaler devices in the market now such as metered dose-inhalers (MDI), breath-actuated inhalers, dry powder inhaler (DPI) such as turbohaler and accuhaler. Do learn the correct inhaler technique to receive the most benefit for the treatment of asthma. Good inhaler technique will ensure you get the optimal dose of medicine into your lungs as possible. Otherwise, the administered dose will not reach the lungs to treat the inflammation and swelling of airways and cause side effects such as throat candidiasis.
Aerosol inhalers can be used with a spacer to make it easier to use.
“Asthma is not curable, but the symptoms can be controlled”
Take control of your asthma symptoms and live an active life!
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Global Initiative For Asthma