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Asthma

5 Common Myths Associated with Asthma 

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways in the lungs. Among children, asthma is a common condition however it affects people of all ages ranging from infants to the elderly.

While there are many things that can cause asthma such as genetics, environmental factors, and occupational exposures,  sometimes the exact cause cannot be determined. If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with asthma, it can be overwhelming.

Your healthcare provider can provide you with some great resources, and while the internet is a great source of information, take caution regarding some common myths associated with asthma. Read on to learn the truth to these common myths.

Myth #1: Asthmatics Should Avoid Exercise.

While many asthmatics experience exercise induced asthma, it does not mean that it should be avoided all together. This, in fact, is a myth. It is important to assess your individual risk factors and determine if your asthma is well controlled with an asthma-action plan. If your asthma is well controlled, you may enjoy activities such as a brisk walk, leisure biking, swimming, and hiking. Avoid exercising outdoors in colder weather months to avoid an asthma flare-up.

Myth #2: Asthmas Goes Away after Childhood.

While some children will experience asthma only in the early years of life, asthma does not just go away. A common misconception, but, in fact, a myth. A clear answer to this myth would be that, for some children, asthma can go into a hibernation state and never return. This is due to a person’s lungs growing and maturing and the lungs becoming less affected by triggers. Its important to know that while your asthma may not ever truly go away, your attacks can be well controlled if you are aware of your triggers.

Myth #3: No One Dies from Asthma.

This is alarmingly false. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016 there were 417,918 deaths globally due to asthma. Asthma is one of the major noncommunicable diseases, this means that asthma is not transmissible directly from one person to another. While asthma can be controlled with medication, it can cause deaths. It is important to seek treatment and not allow your symptoms to get worse. Ensure you continue your medications and asthma action plan set by your healthcare provider.

Myth #4 All You Need is Albuterol.

Albuterol sulfate is a common bronchodilator, which works by relaxing the muscles in the lungs, and makes it easier to breathe. The truth is albuterol is not the only medication available to treat asthma. Also, everyone with asthma does not take the same medication. Asthma can be treated with two types or medications: a quick-relief and long-term controller. A quick relief will control the symptoms of an asthma flare-up. A long-term medication will work by helping you have fewer and milder flare-ups.

Myth #5: Asthma is Easy to Diagnose and Treat.

The truth is asthma can be difficult to diagnose. The reason being that asthma mimics other diseases and often there are similar symptoms, making it difficult to make the diagnosis. Asthma is underdiagnosed and undertreated which creates a substantial health burden globally and to individuals and their families. If you suffer from asthma, and you have a long family history of asthma, it may be easier to diagnose. For some, a series of test may be needed to make the diagnosis.

Takeaway

Asthma is estimated to have affected more than 339 million people in 2016 according to WHO. It is a common condition, and it is important to have facts and understand the misconceptions and myths associated with it. Asthma can be treated and controlled so that a person can enjoy their day-to-day life!

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/faqs.htm

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/symptoms-causes/syc-20369653

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asthma

COPD Awareness: Understanding the Diagnosis and Stages

Awareness

Being told you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be overwhelming. COPD is a progressive disease that obstructs the airflow, making it difficult to breathe and get enough oxygen into your lungs. According to the Chest Foundation, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the US and impacts roughly 24 million Americans.

COPD is made up of two diseases; emphysema accounts for 33 percent, and chronic bronchitis accounts for the remaining 64 percent of diagnosed cases. Emphysema occurs due to the damage that happens to the air sacs in the lungs. These air sacs overfill with air and lose their elasticity which makes it hard to exhale the excess air. In chronic bronchitis, the airways become swollen and inflamed and produce large amounts of mucus. The increased production of mucus obstructs the airways, narrows them, and makes it hard to breathe.

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) has classified four stages in which your healthcare provider will determine what stage of COPD you are in. This will help them determine the best treatment plan for you.

Symptoms

The first part of diagnosing your condition will consist of assessing symptoms. It will be important to provide your healthcare provider with the symptoms you have been having that have led you to seek medical attention. Common COPD symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough
  • New or increased wheezing
  • Coughing up phlegm or and increase in phlegm

Risk Factors

It will be important for your healthcare provider to know if you have had or are currently exposed to any risk factors. Risk factors could include things such as:

  • Genetic factors
  • Abnormalities from birth
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Smoke from cooking/heating fuels
  • Dust
  • Vapor
  • Fumes or other inhaled chemicals

Spirometry

Spirometry will play a large role in your COPD diagnosis. Once you have sought medical care for COPD related symptoms and you have discussed your risk factors, the next step will be for your healthcare provider to order spirometry.

Spirometry is a common breathing test used to see how well your lungs are working by taking a few test measurements while you breathe into a machine. Spirometry will measure the air you breathe in, the air you breathe out, and how quickly you breathe out.

One of the initial spirometry tests that will be performed is called the Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) measurement or the amount of forced air that you can exhale and inhale into the machine. An equally important measurement is the calculation based on the Forced Expiratory Volume in One Second (FEV1). This is the amount of air you can breathe out of the lungs in the first one second of forced expiration.

Your FEV1 is based on factors including your age, sex, height, and ethnicity.  Your healthcare provider will compare your results to a healthy individual and any deviations in measurements are what will lead to a sign of what might be causing your problems.

You will be given a breathing treatment with medication to help open your lungs such as a bronchodilator before you start the test. This is to ensure your lungs are performing at their best.

After your test is completed, your healthcare provider will review the measurements and see which of the four GOLD stages of COPD you fall into based on your results. This testing will serve as a follow-up assessment to determine what other therapies can work for you and to monitor you as the disease progresses.

Four Stages of GOLD

Your spirometry results, particularly your FEV1, will fall into one of the four GOLD classifications of severity which is how your COPD stage will be determined.

GOLD 1
  • Mild Stage, Stage I COPD
  • FEV1  greater than/or equal to 80% of predicted test results compared to a healthy individual
  • In this stage, you will likely experience very mild symptoms
GOLD 2
  • Moderate Stage, Stage II COPD
  • FEV1 between 50 – 79% of predicted test results compared to a healthy individual
  • Symptoms include shortness of breath with activity, cough, and sputum production
GOLD 3
  • Severe Stage, Stage III COPD
  • FEV1  between 30 – 49% of predicted test results compared to a healthy individual
  • In this stage, you may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, and a lower tolerance to physical as well as more frequent COPD exacerbations
GOLD 4
  • Very Severe, Stage III COPD sometimes referred to as End-Stage COPD
  • FEV1 less than 30 % of predicted test results compared to a healthy individual
  • In this stage, you may find that your quality of life is significantly decreased, and you may experience severe and life-threatening exacerbations

Takeaway

COPD is a chronic disease that cannot be cured and as time goes on, the disease progresses. Certain treatments and lifestyle changes can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. It is important to seek out a healthcare provider who will work with you to improve your breathing.

Sources:

https://foundation.chestnet.org/lung-health-a-z/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd/

https://www.who.int/respiratory/copd/burden/en/

https://goldcopd.org/