Ask the Doctor: Asthma

WMBD This Morning


Definition: An inflammatory disease of the air conducting tubes in the lungs that will often provoke wheezing

Different degrees of asthma are recognized, with different treatment at the different levels.

· In many people, asthma is an intermittent problem. What inflammation there is either is off and on, or sufficiently minor that it only causes problems on rare occasions needing medicated once or twice a week and only causing night time symptoms twice a month or less.. This is called mild, intermittent asthma and generally can be handled by making use of a rescue inhaler when symptoms occur.

· For some, the inflammation is more entrenched, with the rescue inhaler being needed three or more times a week, but less than once a day. Night time symptoms happen more than twice a month, and exercise also triggers symptoms. This is considered mild, persistent asthma; generally this will require daily medication with something to try to control the inflammation.

· When the symptoms become an issue on a daily basis, and there are night time awakenings once a week or more, with exercise frequently triggering symptoms, the asthma is labeled moderate, persistent asthma. Generally either high dose inhaled steroids, or inhaled steroids and other long acting medications are needed on top of the rescue inhaler.

· Severe, persistent asthma will show symptoms multiple times a day, to the point that the symptoms seem, or are, continuous with night symptoms frequently and with exercise severely limited by the symptoms. Multiple medications are generally needed to control asthma of this severity.

Although asthma wheezes in most people, there is a variant of asthma known as cough asthma as well. As the name implies, rather than the inflammation causing wheezing, it causes a persistent, often wracking cough.

There are numerous websites that are worthy of consideration, two very

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Website on treating Asthma

Global Initiative for Asthma Website pocket guide

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