Is your asthma under control? If you're like most people, you probably think
it is. You feel OK most of the time, so you usually don't need medicine. When
your asthma flares up, a puff from your trusty emergency inhaler solves the
problem -- most of the time, at least.
But experts say that if you have persistent asthma and you're only treating
it during attacks, you're not controlling it at all. Anyone who has asthma
symptoms more than twice a week during the daytime, or more than two nights a
month, should talk to their doctors about preventive treatment.
Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. With asthma, there is inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. This results in asthma symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. If it is severe, asthma can result in decreased activity and inability to talk. Some people refer to asthma as "bronchial asthma."
Even though there are seemingly miraculous treatments...
"A lot of people have this attitude that they don't need to worry about
their asthma unless they're having an attack," says Timothy Craig, DO,
professor of medicine and pediatrics at Penn State University. "The rest of
the time, they ignore it."
Asthma: An Ever-Present Disease
Asthma is a chronic, incurable disease. Even when you feel well, your asthma
hasn't gone away. Even if you can't feel it, your airways might still be
inflamed. Treating persistent asthma with only occasional puffs from a rescue
inhaler is like dealing with a leaky pipe in your basement by mopping up the
water on the floor. You're only thinking about the symptom and not treating the
underlying cause. Over time, if asthma isn't well controlled it can damage your
Yet while damage to the airways may be irreversible, it is not inevitable.
The good news is that there is a lot you can do to prevent serious damage from
"When asthma gets correctly diagnosed and treated, most people do very
well with the conventional medications we have available," says allergist
Jonathan A. Bernstein, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
There may not be a cure for asthma, but by sticking to the right treatment
-- avoiding triggers and taking your medicine -- you can regain control and
live a full and normal life.
How Asthma Affects Your Airways
Asthma is a complicated disease, and doctors don't completely understand its
causes. But it has two main components: inflammation and muscle