With New Treatments on the Horizon, Asthma Takes a Breather
When we think of asthma, we are likely to think about asthma attacks, inhalers, and other trademark elements of the condition. But limited information and outdated misconceptions may keep people living with asthma from critical improvements to their quality of life.
May is Asthma Awareness Month, so the #TRN team is tackling the latest asthma issues and uncovering what’s new and notable in today’s treatment plans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma affects over 25 million people in the U.S. alone. The disease attacks the lungs by inflaming and narrowing a person’s airways, causing shortness of breath, wheezing, or other difficulties.
Classification of Asthma
Because not all cases are created equal, experts classify asthma into various types based on the severity and the frequency of symptoms:
Intermittent Asthma: This classification refers to asthma symptoms that occur less than twice a week, with nighttime symptoms less than twice a month.
Mild Persistent Asthma: Asthmatic symptoms occur more than twice a week but not daily, with nighttime symptoms occurring more than twice a month.
Moderate Persistent Asthma: Symptoms occur daily, and nighttime symptoms occur more than once a week.
Severe Persistent Asthma: Asthma symptoms occur daily, in a long-term and ongoing fashion, and frequently at night.
Cause and Diagnosis
Asthma often starts in childhood and has multiple causes. Genetic factors can influence it, as it usually runs in families, and environmental triggers like allergens and viral infections can also contribute to asthma development.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 50% of children diagnosed with asthma will outgrow their symptoms by the time they’re teenagers. But strangely, half of those whose symptoms disappeared in adolescence may experience a re-emergence of symptoms in adulthood.
Diagnosing asthma involves a consultation with your doctor, who may refer you to a respiratory specialist called a pulmonologist. The doctor will evaluate your detailed medical history and symptoms before likely recommending a battery of tests that may include:
Overall physical exam
Chest and sinus X-rays
Blood tests to check for specific markers
Various lung function tests, like peak flow or exhaled nitric oxide
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Because there is technically no cure for asthma, the focus for medical practitioners is on symptom management and educating patients on identifying and avoiding triggers. A trigger is something your upper respiratory system is sensitive to, so part of your treatment plan may be to limit or avoid exposure altogether. The most common asthma triggers include:
Animal dander and allergens
Scents and fragrances
Extreme weather fluctuations
Medical Breakthroughs in Asthma Treatment
The good news is that a few exciting advancements have been made in asthma treatment, offering new hope and improved patient outcomes. Asthma mortality fell by 43% in the U.S. between 1999 and 2015, with the CDC later confirming that the positive trend had continued through 2019.
For severe asthma, biologic therapy may provide new relief when an inhaler isn’t enough. Through injectable medication, biologic therapy specifically targets the cells in the body contributing to asthmatic episodes.
There are different biologic therapies, so let your doctor will recommend the best one for you. Recent studies have highlighted the effectiveness of these biologics in severe asthma cases, leading to reduced hospitalizations and improved quality of life. New drugs like Airsupra and Fevipiprant have also been entering the scene. Airsupra is now FDA-approved as a supercharged inhalant combo of albuterol and budesonide, which can significantly reduce the risk of asthma attacks. Researchers from the U.K. and Canada have reported from their investigations that Fevipiprant reduces airway smooth muscle mass to reduce attacks.
Everyday Breakthroughs in Symptom Management
With these breakthroughs emerging in asthma treatment, it might be easy to overlook some of the everyday improvements to the quality of life that have become available.
Smart Inhalers, for example, are handheld tools that are revolutionizing healthy habits and treatment plans for asthma patients.
Smart inhalers are Bluetooth-enabled and app-integrated to help users adhere to their medication intake schedules, track asthmatic episodes, and perform other routine health monitoring functions. They can also help predict and mitigate triggers before they escalate into full-scale asthma attacks. The goal of the smart inhaler is to inform and empower the patient using technology that’s light years beyond traditional devices, and the approach has proven successful since its inception.
Air purifiers have also come a long way in protecting against pollutants, pet dander, and other in-home asthma triggers. Did you know that the level of indoor pollutants can be between two to five times higher than the level of outdoor pollutants? Yikes. So while air purifiers are an advisable and relatively affordable addition to the home of anyone with asthma, they’re probably just a good idea.
Finding Expert Care for Chronic Conditions
As the end of May comes to a close, so does Asthma Awareness Month, but our commitment to raising awareness and supporting individuals with asthma should continue throughout the year. One critical step in protecting a loved one with asthma is ensuring they have access to the quality healthcare and coverage they need.
It can get confusing with all the choices, but the Trusted Referral Network team is here to help! Our mission is to help match consumers with the trustworthy healthcare and insurance experts you need when you need them.