What is this thing called, “Asthma?”
By Andrew Anderson, PA-C, Texoma and Denton LIVING WELL Magazines
“Asthma!” A word feared by some and misunderstood by so many more. Asthma is a condition that is characterized by wheezing, coughing, and struggling for breath. There is a saying in medicine: “all that wheezes is not asthma.” Certainly those who are among the 300 million people in the world who have asthma identify with the typical “wheeze” that seems to make breathing so difficult. This “wheeze” is brought about by a constriction (a narrowing) of the bronchi (tube in the lung) and mucous making it more difficult to get air into the lungs.
Asthma can be either intrinsic, meaning it can come from within the body’s own immune system, and/or it can be extrinsic, which is a reaction to allergens in the environment. Either pathway involves the constriction of the bronchi, which leads to difficulty breathing.
Approximately 40% of those with asthma have had one or both parents with asthma. Treatment consists of inhaled corticosteroids, which decrease inflammation of the lungs; and bronchodilators, which dilate (open) the bronchi and enable air to get to the depths of the lungs. Other medicines are also used. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to know you are taking what is right for you and providing you with optimal health.
So how do you know whether you have asthma or not? If you have asthma, how do you know it is well controlled? If you notice difficulty breathing and wheezing during a time when allergies are kicking up, you might lead into suffering from an allergy induced asthma attack. Let your healthcare provider know the difficulties you are facing and they will probably perform a procedure called a Pulmonary Function Test. This PFT measures the capacity of air you can breathe in, and the volume, or flow, you are able to force out in a short period of time. While doing this test, you will be given a medicine to see whether you will do better after treatment than before, and the difference will determine the function of your lungs.
Many people can carry on routine and productive lives while living with asthma. However, it takes a willingness to learn what you can do about your condition and the diligence to guard yourself against those things that cause you to develop symptoms. If you have asthma and you smoke, you are likely to increase your risk of serious medical problems associated with the lungs long-term. Smoking causes inflammation of the lungs and the development of mucus, much like the effects of asthma itself. So if you have asthma and you smoke, talk to your provider about the harm you may be doing to your lungs and ask for help to quit smoking.
If you are one of the many who suffer asthma attacks on a regular basis, you will want to carry a medicine, such as Albuterol, which is a rapid acting medicine that dilates the bronchi.
Living with asthma is not a death sentence, but poorly controlled it can lead to fatigue, chronic illness, poor sleep, progressive aging, and even death. Having the diagnosis of asthma does require knowledge and understanding for prevention and control of asthma flares. We, at North Texas Family Medicine, strive to educate you and your family on how to live with asthma, as well as managing treatment, so that you will be able to have an abundantly healthy life. Call us today at 940-686-0860 and we will gladly help you!
North Texas Family Medicine now has two locations! Visit their original location at 1340 North Highway 377, Suite 110, Pilot Point, TX 76258 (940-686-0860) or go see their new Lake Kiowa location at 6400 FM 902, Suite 440, Lake Kiowa, TX 76240 (940-580-4332).