Diagnosis –what is it?
Asthma is one of the commonest of all medical conditions 7% of our patients at Bottisham Medical Practice have it. It causes repeated symptoms of cough, breathlessness, wheezing and chest tightness which are brought on by different triggering actors in sensitive people. These triggering factors are different for each person, so one person may get wheeze and cough after running, stroking a dog or with hayfever, whereas another person may just get a cough that does not go away after a cold.
Common trigger factors:
- Viral infections, colds or flu
- Allergies e.g. pollen, animals, house dust mite
- Irritants e.g. cold air, tobacco smoke, chemical fumes
Asthma is not always predictable or stable, so even if a person knows their regular trigger factors other things can set it off, for example, one lady told me that damp pillows on a barge holiday triggered her asthma and another lady became unexpectedly wheezy on emptying her vacuum cleaner.
It is important to recognise and treat asthma properly to prevent it becoming dangerous or damaging to lung health. There are different inhalers used to treat asthma. Broadly speaking these are inhalers that prevent or relieve symptoms of asthma. Because asthma treatment is important to lung health and because the nature of asthmatic symptoms change as the years go by, we ask you to come in each year with your inhalers for an asthma review. The inhaler device that you use needs thinking about and the dose and sometimes the type of medication needs reviewing as your requirements may change with time, or changing environmental factors like the weather or the hayfever season. I have found that even if someone thinks that their asthma is well controlled there are usually issues which need addressing or small changes made to the medication or things like emergency management of asthma that can be addressed and so I feel that asthma reviews are very useful.
Sometimes it is important to see people with asthma in between reviews if the asthma is becoming unstable. This is because infections like colds or chest infections can appear or a new unexpected trigger factor can make things worse. At these times other treatments like antibiotics may be needed or a change to the inhalers. In the surgery I have seen a lot of people whose asthma is unstable but they have not realised. You may notice this happening by having to use the blue inhaler which is called Salbutamol or Terbutaline more regularly or by having a poor night's sleep due to coughing or wheezing, please come in and be seen if this is happening to you.
Staying well with asthma
- Using inhalers appropriately and properly
- Stopping or not starting smoking
- Regular exercise
- Possibly having vaccinations to prevent flu or pneumonia
Learning more about your asthma.
A web site which you can look at and is well run and factually correct is http://www.asthma.org.uk/ and we have some of their literature in the surgery so please ask if this would be helpful.