JAMESTOWN — The number of Americans diagnosed with asthma is increasing, but the reason remains a mystery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Asthma is a lifelong disease that is caused by the inflammation of a person’s bronchial tubes. It can cause breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing and wheezing. The number of people with the disease grew by 4.3 million cases between 2001 and 2009, according to the latest statistics from the CDC.
There is no cure for asthma, however, most people can control their symptoms and prevent asthma attacks by correctly using prescribed medicines, including inhalers. Inhalers are the most effective way to deliver medication to the lungs and help control asthma.
A person is often prescribed an inhaler after a clinical diagnosis of asthma. Providers usually conduct a spirometry, or lung function test, to determine what type of impact a person’s symptoms are having on their lung function. This test is matched up against a person’s medical history, which may include how long they have been having symptoms and how those symptoms impact their daily life, said Mark Williams, MD, primary care physician with Jamestown Family Medicine.
“The exam includes a series of questions to the patient such as ‘How many times a week do you experience shortness of breath?’ or ‘Are you waking up at night wheezing,’” said Dr. Williams, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “It’s really a diagnosis that is reached after talking to people to gather information and using the data we receive from the lung function test.”
Dr. Williams said individuals are then prescribed a course of treatment to help manage the disease as well as medication that can help when symptoms get worse. The severity of the asthma and how it is treated can vary from person to person; however, there are several things that are important to keep in mind.
Understand if you need it – Asthma is one of the most common reasons a person may need the use of an inhaler. The disease can look different in each person; however, symptoms usually include shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, wheezing and symptoms that worsen with a respiratory virus. If you experience any of these symptoms see your physician.
Get trained in how to use it – Newly diagnosed asthma patients or even those who have been diagnosed with a temporary illness should make sure they are properly trained in how to use an inhaler. Improper use will result in ineffective medication delivery.
“An inhaler can be pretty confusing to people when they are first prescribed it,” Dr. Williams said. “The biggest thing I would say is don’t leave the office until you understand how to use it.”
Get organized before you get started – Many individuals may be prescribed more than one inhaler at a time to manage their disease. For instance, a fast-acting, rescue inhaler may be prescribed along with one prescribed for chronic management. It’s important to understand which one is used in what circumstance and not to get them confused. Dr. Williams recommends patients quickly go over each with their pharmacist before taking the medication home.
Be mindful of how often you use it – How often an inhaler is used is important, especially when talking about a rescue inhaler. Dr. Williams said patients who find they are using rescue inhalers more than three or four times a week or who wake up to use it may need to have the severity of their asthma assessed by their physician. The severity of asthma may dictate if multiple medications are needed to treat it.
For more information on inhalers or to find a Premier Physician Network provider near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/provider.