CAN ASTHMA BE CURED?

Asthma is an eminently controllable illness. Indeed, for most sufferers, control is so effective that it amounts to a virtual cure. But asthma is not curable in the same way as, say, a bacterial pneumonia; it never entirely goes away. Also, no one cure would ever suffice. It is becoming increasingly clear that there many types of asthma–and they differ greatly in their presentation and genesis. For example, asthma that presents as a chronic cough, the “cough variant of asthma,” appears to be very different from the life-threatening variety, which results in extreme respiratory failure and sometimes death.
Nevertheless, the sine qua non of asthma–as we understand it today–is the increased sensitivity of the airways to many different agents. These agents include respiratory viruses (common cold virus), pollutants (ozone and cigarette smoke), airborne allergens (animal dander, pollens and molds) and exercise, especially in a cold and dry environment. These agents, called triggers, induce an inflammatory reaction in the airways that, in turn, results in the common symptoms of cough, wheezing, increased mucus production and shortness of breath. Successful control of asthma entails controlling the inflammation in the airways and reversing the symptoms before they get out of hand.
The greatest advances in controlling asthma may be the change in physicians’ attitudes toward using preventive medications, as well as attempts to make home rescue plans more aggressive and self-sufficient. The availability of selective and potent medications has made such changes possible. By avoiding known triggers in the environment, such as cigarette smoke, dust mites, roach antigens and dander from warm-blooded pets like cats and dogs, patients can help minimize airway inflammation. Also, newer, tighter and more energy-efficient homes, forced-air heating and wall-to-wall carpeting all contribute to higher levels of indoor triggers.






DIAGNOSE ASTHMA WITH A BLOOD TEST?

While some symptoms of asthma, like wheezing, are obvious, a diagnosis of asthma is not always clear cut, especially if they don’t occur when patients are with their doctors, and involve trials of lung function and tests for allergies. But one new test could possibly diagnose asthma with a single drop of blood.
In the study, researchers found that neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, of asthmatics move more slowly than the cells of those without asthma. The scientists have created a micro-fluidic, handheld device that can test how quickly these neutrophils migrate toward the source of inflammation; these white blood cells move toward wounds in the body, for example, and help start the healing process. But neutrophils of asthmatics are sluggish. Sucks to your ass-mar, neutros.
Previously it was impractical to use neutrophils, as it required a fair amount of blood, according to a statement from the University of Wisconsin, from which some of the researchers hail. But the new device, which is made of cheap plastic, can detect the speed at which the white blood cells are moving, and then automatically come up with a diagnosis. “The device can sort neutrophils from a drop of whole blood within minutes, and was used in a clinical setting to characterize asthmatic and non-asthmatic patients,” the researchers wrote in the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
If the device works, it could have wide application. The CDC says the number of Americans diagnosed with asthma increased by 4.3 million from 2001 to 2009, and the condition now affects more than 300 million people worldwide.






ASTHMA ATTACK

During an asthma attack, also called an asthma exacerbation, your airways become swollen and inflamed. The muscles around the airways contract, causing your breathing (bronchial) tubes to narrow.
During an asthma attack, you may cough, wheeze and have trouble breathing. An asthma attack may be minor, with symptoms that get better with prompt home treatment, or it may be more serious. A severe asthma attack that doesn’t improve with home treatment can become a life-threatening emergency.
The key to stopping an asthma attack is recognizing and treating an asthma flare-up early. Follow the treatment plan you worked out with your doctor ahead of time. This plan should include what to do when your asthma starts getting worse, and how to deal with an asthma attack in progress.
When to seek emergency medical treatment?
Seek medical attention right away if you have signs or symptoms of a serious asthma attack, which include:
-Severe breathlessness or wheezing, especially at night or in the early morning
-The inability to speak more than short phrases due to shortness of breath
-Having to strain your chest muscles to breathe
-Low peak flow readings when you use a peak flow meter






DOES ASTHMA GO AWAY?

There is no once-and-for-all cure. However, about half of the children who develop asthma grow out of it by the time they are adults.
For many adults, asthma is variable with some good spells and some spells that are not so good. Some people are worse in the winter months, and some worse in the hay fever season. Although not curable, asthma is treatable. Stepping up the treatment for a while during bad spells will often control symptoms.
Some other general points about asthma:
It is vital that you learn how to use your inhalers correctly. In some people, symptoms persist simply because they do not use their inhaler properly, and the drug from the inhaler does not get into the airways properly. See your practice nurse or doctor if you are not sure if you are using your inhaler properly.
See a doctor or nurse if symptoms are not fully controlled, or if they are getting worse. For example, if:
-A night-time cough or wheeze is troublesome.
-Sport is being affected by symptoms.
-Your peak flow readings are lower than normal.
-You need a reliever inhaler more often than usual.
An adjustment in inhaler timings or doses may control these symptoms.