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 symptoms are like the weather -- they change often and may seem unpredictable. But also like the weather, careful tracking of asthma symptoms can help identify patterns and what they may say about your asthma control.
Research has shown that tracking and rating your asthma symptoms are key steps in successfully managing asthma. One study even found that it helps keep kids with childhood asthma out of the emergency room.
Most asthma action plans track your “peak flow” (measured by a portable,...
"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
Asthma affects the airways, the bronchial tubes that carry air into the
lungs. In people with asthma, the lining of these airways becomes inflamed. No
one is sure why this first develops. But certain allergy triggers (like pollen
or pet dander) or irritants (like perfumes or cigarette smoke) begin to trigger
If you take long-term control medicines -- like inhaled corticosteroids --
you can reduce this swelling and keep the airways healthy. But if your asthma
goes untreated, problems develop. Over time, this constant inflammation can
destroy the surface layer of the airways, says Hugh H. Windom, MD, associate
clinical professor of immunology at the University of South Florida.