Asthma

Treatment

Characterized by recurring episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, asthma is a common chronic respiratory condition that affects millions of Americans. Developing at any age, it can make physical activity challenging due to it inflaming and narrowing the airways of a person. Asthma can also leave a person more susceptible to certain diseases that affect the respiratory system.

As a condition that targets the respiratory system, asthma features symptoms that can make life more difficult on a constant or episodic basis. The primary symptom for those with the condition is an asthma attack, a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms that leaves a person far less capable or even immobilized until the attack passes. Such symptoms that are exacerbated include: 

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Chest tightness

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Coughing

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Difficulty communicating

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Increased heart rate

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Shortness of breath

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Wheezing

The current data surrounding how asthma develops in a person finds that genetics and environmental influences are the most significant contributors. Additional factors that can determine whether a person develops asthma include:

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Allergies

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Exposure to irritants

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Excessive weight gain or obesity

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Occupational exposures and stress

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Severe respiratory infections during early childhood

Doctors diagnose asthma through a combination of methods. They begin by obtaining a detailed medical history from the patient, inquiring about symptoms, triggers, and family history of asthma or allergies. A physical examination, including listening to the lungs with a stethoscope, follows. Lung function tests like spirometry and peak flow measurements are conducted to assess airflow obstruction. A bronchodilator test may be performed to see if lung function improves after inhaling a medication. In more complex cases, additional tests such as methacholine challenge or fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) test might be considered. These results, along with any necessary imaging or allergy testing, are analyzed to determine whether asthma is the likely diagnosis.

Individuals who suspect they might have asthma should be vigilant about certain symptoms. Frequent or persistent coughing, especially at night or early morning, shortness of breath, a feeling of tightness in the chest, and wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing) are hallmark signs. Paying attention to potential triggers such as exposure to allergens, respiratory infections, cold air, exercise, or irritants can provide valuable information. If these symptoms recur frequently or significantly impact daily activities, seeking professional medical evaluation is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and proper management.

Alongside prescribed medications, the focus of asthma treatment is to reduce the severity of asthma attacks and manage symptoms felt on a normal basis. Additional treatment to that end will most often be an Asthma Action Plan that outlines what patients can do, lifestyle changes by the patient to help avoid asthma triggers, and the use of inhalers to quickly curb sudden symptoms from getting worse. 

We do NOT treat acute or severe asthma attacks. Call 911 if you have trouble breathing, chest pain or persistent wheezing

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Advair

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Albuterol

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Flovent

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Levabulterol

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Singulair

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Qvar

While not a replacement for treatment, home remedies help reduce symptoms and generally benefit ongoing health. Here are some of the most popular: 

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Breathing Exercises: Practicing relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises can help manage stress, which can sometimes trigger asthma symptoms.

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Ginger and Honey: Some people believe that ginger's anti-inflammatory properties and honey's soothing effect can offer relief. However, evidence is limited and individual responses vary.

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Turmeric: Turmeric contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Incorporating turmeric into your diet could potentially have some benefits, but consult a healthcare provider first.

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, are believed to have anti-inflammatory effects that could benefit asthma patients.

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Vitamin D: Adequate vitamin D levels are linked to better lung function. Spending some time outdoors in sunlight or consuming vitamin D-rich foods can be beneficial.

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Herbal Teas: Certain herbal teas, like chamomile or licorice root, are thought to have mild anti-inflammatory or soothing effects. Consult a healthcare provider before using herbal remedies, especially if you take other medications.

Alongside medical treatment, there are a number of steps you can take to manage your asthma and reduce its severity. Here are the steps we often suggest for patients with the condition: 

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Adhere to a Diet: A diet for asthma can be especially helpful to reduce symptoms and be as healthy as possible, with the best foods focusing on flavonoids, magnesium, selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin D. Likewise, foods that might be counterproductive include fermented foods, soft drinks, sausage, alcohol, and preservatives. 

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Maintain a Clean Environment: Minimize exposure to allergens and irritants by keeping your living space clean. Regularly dust, vacuum, and wash bedding to reduce potential triggers.

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Use Air Purifiers: High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in air purifiers can help remove airborne allergens and pollutants from your living spaces.

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Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water can help keep airways hydrated and mucus thinned, potentially easing breathing difficulties.

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Steam Inhalation: Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water (taking care to avoid burns) might help temporarily open up airways and provide relief. Adding a drop of essential oil like eucalyptus oil could enhance the effect, but be cautious with essential oils, especially if you have sensitivities.

Asthma cannot be entirely prevented, as its development is influenced by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. However, adopting a proactive approach to minimize risks can be beneficial. This involves avoiding exposure to allergens and irritants, maintaining a healthy lifestyle through proper nutrition and regular exercise, practicing good hygiene to prevent respiratory infections, reducing stress, avoiding smoking and secondhand smoke, and staying informed about family medical history.

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