More than 25 million people in the United States are living with asthma, amounting to about 1 in 13 people. Asthma is a lifelong chronic lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and often limits regular daily activities.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Recently, the American Lung Association provided a series of patient-focused asthma webcasts featuring clinical speakers, Cindy Fiske and Aliciee Griffith, registered nurses and patient engagement liaisons with GlaxoSmithKline. This is what they had to say about understanding, managing and living with asthma.
Q: What recommendations would you make to newly diagnosed patients and caregivers?
A: Everyone can benefit from asthma education. It’s a good idea for those newly diagnosed to have a conversation with their doctor about asthma basics, as well as to learn the type and severity of their asthma, which will guide their treatment. It’s important to understand that asthma is a chronic (long-term) disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways in the lungs, and that asthma can cause a variety of symptoms, making breathing difficult.
Q: How would someone know if their asthma is in control?
A: Patients should talk to their doctor about how well their asthma is controlled and what signs or symptoms they should track. Lack of control may limit daily activities, participation in strenuous activity or even sleep, making a discussion with one’s doctor essential. Signs of good asthma control include:
- No shortness of breath
- No need for rescue medication
- No asthma symptoms while waking or at night
- No urgent care, emergency department or hospital visits due to symptoms
- No missed days from work or school due to symptoms
Q: What’s the best way to identify a patient’s type of asthma?
A: Patients should schedule an appointment with their doctor, keep the physician updated on symptoms, and ask if a referral to a specialist would be helpful. This may be necessary for severe asthma, for example, because symptoms may be hard to control with standard therapy.
Q: What can a patient or caregiver expect at office visits?
A: It’s very important for patients to partner with their doctor to manage symptoms. A patient should be prepared to give a health history with details of their condition, including respiratory symptoms, exacerbations, reoccurring and additional health problems, such as allergies or gastroesophageal reflux disease, current medications, frequency of rescue medication use, personalized emergency instructions, their asthma action plan, etc. Doctors should be able to educate patients on treatment options. The more a patient is actively engaged, the more likely they are to get maximum benefits. Patients should let their doctor know what’s important to them and ask their healthcare team about resources and websites providing accurate medical information.
Q: What additional resources and support groups are helpful?
A: Asthma patients should know they’re not alone. Every new patient can take action and talk to their doctor about asthma, its impact on their life and how to align their goals for treatment. It’s important they create an Asthma Action Plan with their healthcare provider, find support groups, and participate in educational seminars, like those offered by the American Lung Association. While asthma can’t be cured, it can be managed, particularly with support from family, a healthcare team and by connecting with other patients. By visiting lung.org/asthma or asthma.com, patients and caregivers can find more information, tools and tips, as well as support, by joining the American Lung Association’s Better Breathers Network.
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