April 17, 2014
   
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How Best to Manage Your Asthma
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How Best to Manage Your Asthma

 
The widespread obstruction of airways that causes asthma symptoms can be extremely frightening to patients, their families and friends. Fortunately, the obstruction is, usually, reversible — either spontaneously or with therapy.

Medical scientists now believe that asthma is characterized by chronic inflammation and is active even when you have no symptoms. As a result of the continuous airway inflammation, irritants such as air pollutants or allergens produce, from time to time, medical consequences for the asthmatic.(1)

Many mechanisms cause asthma and they are not well understood. For practical reasons, we distinguish asthma associated with allergies from those for which allergy plays a less prominent role. Regardless of the cause, asthma is a disease that needs to be continually managed. The best way to do this is to pursue treatment through both drugs and non-pharmacologic therapies.

The primary goal of therapy is to reduce airway inflammation overall and manage flare-ups. Even though asthma is a disease of intricate physiology and genetics, it is clear that the environment — the setting in which it occurs — is very important. In the United States, data show that the patient's economic and social circumstances(2) and the medical support system available to the patient(3) are important factors affecting disability and death.

An educated patient is important to managing asthma successfully. The National Institutes of Health developed for doctors and patients Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma.(4) The guidelines emphasize that though asthma is a chronic disease, the asthmatic's understanding of their environment and prescribed regimen is central to successful management of their disease.

Self Management Strategies
  1. Follow the treatment plan and make sure you do not run out of medication.
  2. Take the following steps to reduce anxiety:
    • Have your doctor give you written instructions or write them down yourself in his or her presence.
    • Make sure you understand the treatment plan.
    • Make sure you have "measurement instruments" (e.g., diaries, peak flow meters) so that you can monitor the severity of your disease.
    • Have your doctor demonstrate the use of meter-dose inhalers, spacers and other respiratory care devices while you are in the office.

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