Thursday, October 10, 2013

Managing asthma

I saw my PCP last week for a check up.  I had several things that concerned me- one was the frequent severe headaches I've been having and the other was the dry hacky cough I'd had since the day before.  That morning I had noted some wheezing which seemed to relieve after a cup of hot coffee.
When I left the office, I wondered at that diagnosis of "asthmatic bronchitis".. granted I was coughing more , but it felt loose.  I hadn't noticed the increase in the wheeze, but she found that there wasn't anywhere on my chest that didn't have wheezes.
So now I'll tell you about asthma.
The exact cause of asthma isn't known, though the tendency can run in families via geneticsEnvironment plays a part as well.  Air pollution may play a part in adult-onset asthma.
Infantile respiratory infections also have been shown to damage lung tissue and thus long term lung function.
Allergies .. at least certain ones.. are linked to people who develop asthma.
Asthma is a serious problem , but with proper management, one can lead a fairly normal life.
When you breathe in a 'trigger', your airways become swollen and inflamed .  The 'trigger' could be a cold, weather, air contaminants,grass,
dust, chemicals or pet dander for a few examples.
When you breathe more of these triggers, your airways make extra mucus and swell even more.  This makes it hard to breathe.. this is generally referred to as an asthma attack. 
Flare ups make one exhausted, but once the episode is over, the risk of another is increased.  It's important to recognize the 'triggers' and avoid them. 
One of the things I use to manage my asthma is a PEAK-FLOW meter.  It's a portable device, hand held, that is used to measure how much air you can expel from your lungs.  There is one made for children and one for adults.
The meter is used to determine if asthma is getting worse or better.  Peak flow rate is based on age, height, sex, and race.  The normal is determined from a healthy population.
Symptoms of asthma are many times different  for other people, but the most common ones involve wheezing, shortness of breath, frequent cough, and sometimes chest tightness.
The medications are pretty much the same for everyone..
bronchodilators to relax the muscles around the airways.  There are long acting and short acting.  The long acting ones normally have anti-inflammatory medication combined.
The anti-inflammatory meds help reduce swelling and mucus inside the airways.  These are inhaled corticosteroids or steroids.  It's really important to rinse the mouth after EVERY use of them to avoid thrush.  If you don't respond well to these .. there are pill form steroids that will be of assistance short term.
Antibiotics or antivirals are frequently used because the flare up can make you more susceptible to bacterial infection or viral infection..