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Breathing easier

With proper management, most people with asthma can lead a normal, active life.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the lung airways. When exposed to certain allergy triggers, the airways become swollen and narrow, causing the symptoms of asthma.

People with asthma suffer terribly for an average of three to five days during each acute attack, when their asthma becomes uncontrolled.

In fact, there are about 20 asthmatic episodes experienced per adult per year. This may not sound like a lot, but for an asthma patient, it can be quite debilitating. Her daily activities are disrupted because of these attacks and she has to spend time in hospital.

Why do these attacks occur? Inflamed and narrow airways lead to coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and labored breathing. Inflamed airways are the root cause of the problem.

Unfortunately, most people with asthma neglect to treat the inflammation, even if it's what the doctor ordered.

Most people with asthma recognize asthma symptoms and experience warning signs before the actual attack occurs. But the problem is that they tend to rely heavily on the blue reliever inhaler, to the extent of neglecting the maintenance inhaler.

What people with asthma need to understand is that both the maintenance and reliever inhaler are needed for proper asthma control.

They both have specific functions and one cannot compensate for the other, which is why many who rely solely on the blue reliever inhaler don't notice an improvement in their condition.

The maintenance inhaler treats the underlying inflammation, and should be used on a daily basis for prevention purposes. The blue reliever inhaler is only used when needed -- usually when the airways become narrow -- to provide fast relief.

Right treatment

It is important to remember that the blue reliever inhaler does not treat inflammation, and over-relying on it will do nothing to help control asthma.

Proper asthma management requires that sufferers use both inhalers, because treating inflammation is a necessary step in controlling asthma in order to prevent asthma attacks.

Many patients fail to understand the importance of using both the inhalers as part of their asthma management. Many can't tell the difference between the functions of inhalers of different colors, and using multiple inhalers becomes confusing for some.

If the root of the problem lies in inflamed airways, then the solution is to prevent or control this inflammation.

The key to proper asthma management and prevention of attacks is to treat the underlying airway inflammation early and adequately. People with asthma should consult their physicians on the best way to treat their asthma.

New approach

Today's respiratory physicians, referring to the Global Initiative for Asthma guidelines, would treat asthma patients based on control rather than severity.

The latest approach to asthma management is known as the Single inhaler Maintenance And Reliever Therapy - simply known as SMART. With SMART, people with asthma use just one inhaler, because it provides both the daily maintenance dose and reliever use if needed.

The new inhaler is easily identified by its colour -- a red turbuhaler -- which differentiates it from the other inhalers used currently. And having to rely on just one inhaler means people with asthma would not get confused, as they did in the past.

Extensive clinical research has been done for this new approach. Worldwide, more than 14,000 patients, including Malaysians, participated in the SMART clinical development program.

The results showed that SMART provided better overall asthma control and helped reduce the risk and number of serious asthma attacks.

With the SMART approach, people with asthma can look forward to fast relief, better asthma control and an improved quality of life in the long term. People with asthma can follow some simple actions to control their asthma:

Consult your doctor first -- only after the correct diagnosis can the most appropriate asthma management therapy be recommended, tailored specifically to the patient.

Stay alert to your asthma symptoms -- know your symptoms well and listen to your body. Act immediately to control your asthma.

Understand your medicines -- heed your doctor's advice on asthma medications, and when to take them.

Avoid asthma triggers -- asthma is a variable disease; many things can trigger an attack, so be alert to what triggers your attacks. Is it cigarette smoke, dust, pollution, pet hair, medication or certain foods?

Don't let your asthma, control you -- you can control your asthma.


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