World Asthma Day is an annual event celebrated and organized around the globe to raise awareness about asthma. The event is organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) in association with asthma educators and various health care groups. This year the theme adopted for World Asthma Day is “Stop for Asthma” where ‘STOP’ is an abbreviation for Symptom Evaluation, Test Response, Observe and Assess, and Proceed to Adjust Treatment.
As per the World Asthma Report 2018, asthma affects a total of 339 million people worldwide and in India, 6% of children and 2% of adults suffer from this disease. If we talk about numbers, India alone has approximately 15-20 million asthma cases, according to WHO. Here, a large number of populations do not have access to good healthcare facilities, which eventually leads to a high rate of Asthmatics.
Almost 80 percent of the total money spent on a sick patient in India goes on to purchasing medicines. Therefore, in 2018, the Indian government announced that it is planning to provide free health insurance to around 100 million low-income families so that they can afford good health care facilities. According to the Global Asthma Report 2018, states like Rajasthan have already made it mandatory for the government hospitals to provide asthma patients with free metered dose, dry powder inhaler capsules, inhalers, and nebulizers.
How is Asthma Caused
Asthma refers to a medical condition in which the lung airways become narrow and produce extra mucus. This makes breathing difficult and triggers wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath in patients. The cause of asthma may be both genetic predisposition to developing the condition and environmental factors that trigger an allergic response. The reasons for asthma attacks vary from person to person and may include airborne substances such as pollen, mites, dust, pet dander, mold spores, etc. The condition may also arise due to respiratory disorders, exposure to air pollutants, etc. Certain medicines, excessive stress, strenuous physical activity may also serve as primary triggers for asthma.
Preventive Measures for Asthma
Asthma is a non-communicable disease that can be controlled with medications and other supportive therapies; however not completely cured. The condition needs regular monitoring and treatment and the asthmatics are advised to take simple precautionary measures to prevent the triggers and further worsening of the condition. These measures include regular follow-ups with the doctor, getting vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia, identifying the allergens and irritants that may trigger asthma, keeping a track of breathing flow by using a home peak flow meter, taking the prescribed medicine on time and always keeping a quick-relief inhaler with them all the time. All these measures, if carefully practiced can help to reduce the frequency of asthma attacks to a large extent.
Diagnosis and treatment for Asthma
A correct diagnosis is imperative to ensure if a patient is suffering from asthma or some other respiratory disorder. For this, the doctor begins by conducting a physical examination of the patient after which various diagnostic tests are carried out for an accurate diagnosis. These tests include pulmonary function tests to determine the amount of air a person breathes in and out and additional tests such as methacholine challenge, nitric oxide test, imaging tests (X-Ray, CT scan), allergy testing, sputum eosinophils, etc.
After a thorough diagnosis, the condition is categorized into mild, moderate or severe and a personalized treatment plan is offered thereafter. Depending upon age, symptoms, and asthma triggers different medicines are prescribed to the patients. Long term medicines like anti-inflammatory drugs (inhaled corticosteroids), leukotriene modifiers, and beta antagonists are given to patients to keep a check on the symptoms every day. Quick-relief medicines are given to patients to instantly control the symptoms. Also, medicines for allergies are given to patients whose asthma triggers due to an allergic reaction.
Asthma may be a minor nuisance for some people while it can be life-threatening to others. The government in India and in countries worldwide are taking all the possible measures to control the condition. But, it must be noted that each one of us should consider it as our responsibility to help raise awareness about asthma enabling early diagnosis and proper treatment.
(This article is authored by Dr. Sophia Jeremiah, Medical Consultant)
For all the latest Lifestyle updates, check out our Facebook page!