May marks the kickoff of Asthma Awareness Month. Asthma is a condition that is defined as a chronic inflammatory disease of the airway, resulting in difficulty in breathing. It is usually the response of some sort of hypersensitivity or an allergic reaction, though there are also other causes of asthma, which we will delve into, further later on in this article.
Asthma affects almost 3 million Canadians and causes the death of 250 Canadians every year. With proper education and management of asthma, many of those deaths could’ve been prevented. It’s estimated that 6 out of 10 asthma sufferers do not have proper control of the disease.
While symptoms of asthma may come and go, if you are noticing things like a chronic cough, shortness of breath, wheezing or chest tightness, these are all signs that ma be indicative of asthma. However, it is important to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms to asthma such as pneumonia, COPD, heart disease and cystic fibrosis.
Asthma can be triggered by a number of things including dust mites, animals/pet danger, cockroaches, mold, pollen, other air pollutants and viral infections. These are known as inflammatory or allergic triggers. Other asthma triggers include smoke, cold air, food additives, stress, and even exercise. These are known as symptom or non-allergic triggers. Unlike inflammatory triggers, these do not typically cause inflammation. However, they can worsen your breathing, especially if your airways are already inflamed.
Treatment for asthma is dependent on the symptoms that the patient has, but Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, usually recommends the use of inhaled corticosteroids such as Pulmicort or Flovent to help reduce inflammation in the airways.
These particular medications are used every day, and you should eventually start to notice a decrease in your asthma symptoms over time. It is also not uncommon for these medications to be used in combination with others, such as Ventolin, Symbicort or Advair. To ensure you are getting the proper dose of these medications, your physician or pharmacy will often go over the appropriate way to use the inhalers. If you have any questions about asthma, Dr. Ghahary is available to see patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic on a walk-in basis.
Tomorrow, May 2nd, also happens to be World Asthma Day. In effort to continue to shine a spotlight on asthma and help educate individuals on how to better manage their asthma symptoms, you can take part in a free webinar featuring an expert panel including TV medical correspondent Dr. Samir Gupta, as well as Carole Madeley, a certified respiratory educator from the Ontario Lung Association. You can participate in the webinar from your computer, smartphone or tablet. To sign up, visit http://carp.ca/asthma.