May is Asthma Awareness Month.
Balintfy: Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes the airway, or tubes that bring air into the lungs, to become inflamed. When the airway becomes inflamed, it makes the airway narrow and makes muscles that surround the airway become tight.
Kiley: And it's difficult to get air in and out of the lung.
Balintfy: Dr. James Kiley at the NIH explains, then the cells that line the airway also react by creating a build-up of sticky fluid, making the problem worse. This chain reaction leading to difficulty breathing is known as an asthma attack.
Kiley: Right, as an asthma attack, where people are reacting to irritants, agents, chemicals, sprays, allergens. That’s what trips off a number of events that lead to this narrowing of airway, the inflammation, the swelling that occurs and all of the cellular events that go on then to produce an airway that is very sensitive and easily collapsible and then it gets very difficult to move air in and out.
Balintfy: There is no way to prevent or cure asthma, but Dr. Kiley explains, there are treatments that focus on preventing or controlling symptoms.
Kiley: One of the mainstays of treatment for asthma is inhaled agent, inhaled medicines whether they be inhaled bronchodilators, agents that open the airway, the short term, the quick reliever type medicines, all patients with asthma usually carry these with them. The others are inhaled corticosteroids. Those are agents that that deal with the inflammation and they’re long-term controller medicines that individuals take regularly.
Balintfy: Asthma affects more than 230 million people worldwide, including more than 25 million people in the United States. Dr. Kiley adds, that asthma affects people of all ages and it often times begins very early in childhood. About 7 million children in the US have asthma. He emphasizes it is important to take those medications.
Kiley: But we know that probably as many as 40% to 50% of the patients that have asthma whether it’s mild, moderate, or severe asthma don’t take their medicines on a regular basis.
Balintfy: He explains that many patients may feel their asthma is controlled, because they don’t have symptoms, only to have a flare-up or attack triggered by an allergen. He recommends taking these few steps to control asthma.
Kiley: It’s important that patients have a written action plan with their doctor so that they know what medicines they need to take, how often, and when and be sure to follow that. Then the second is to use the medicines as prescribed. So if it’s an inhaled corticosteroid, if it’s a bronchodilator to make sure that you use it. Try to avoid these environmental exposures. Don’t walk into places where there’s heavy tobacco smoke or allergens or things like that when you know that’s going to trip off your asthma. You need to monitor also your day-to-day activities, how well are you doing how well is your asthma control and schedule regular asthma visits with your physician.
Balintfy: Dr. Kiley reminds that an asthma attack can be a life threatening event.
Kiley: If you can’t move air in and out of your lungs and you constrict that airway and you cannot get it open with pharmacological agents then it becomes a deadly disease, a fatal disease.
Balintfy: But he emphasizes that following those steps can help patients lead a normal life. For more information on asthma and its treatments, as well and ongoing medical research on the causes of asthma, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov. And to hear more from Dr. Kiley on asthma, listen to episode 159 of NIH Research Radio. For NIH Radio, this is Joe Balintfy— NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Dr. James Kiley
Topic: asthma, asthma awareness, lung, lungs, airway, asthma attack, asthma symptoms, controlling asthma