More than 25 million people in the United States are living with asthma. In addition to that, there are caregivers for many of those asthma patients. Asthma is a lifelong chronic lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and often limits regular daily activities for those living with the disease. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Over the past several months we provided a series of patient-focused asthma webcasts featuring our clinical speakers Cindy Fiske and Aliciee Griffith, Registered Nurses and Patient Engagement Liaisons with GlaxoSmithKline. In a recent conversation with them, this is what they had to say about understanding, managing and living with asthma.
Q: What recommendations would you make to someone who has a new diagnosis of asthma (or a caregiver of someone newly diagnosed with asthma)?
A: Although I/we can’t give medical advice, I would encourage someone newly diagnosed with asthma to have a conversation with their doctor about the basics of asthma. Everyone can benefit from education on asthma. It is important to understand that asthma is a chronic or long-term disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways in the lungs and that asthma can cause a variety of symptoms making breathing difficult. I would also encourage them to have a conversation with their doctor to learn the type and severity of their asthma which will help guide the treatment they receive.
Learn More: Asthma Basics
Q: When it comes to controlling asthma, how would someone know if they are in good control or not? Can lack of control limit regular daily activities?
A: Patients should talk to their doctor about how well their asthma is controlled and what signs or symptoms they should track or watch for. Lack of control may limit daily activities or participation in strenuous activity or even sleep. Therefore, having a discussion with your doctor is important so that you don’t miss out on activities you enjoy or need to do. Some signs of good asthma control include:
- No shortness of breath
- No need for rescue medication
- No asthma symptoms while waking or at night
- No urgent care, emergency department or hospital visits due to symptoms
- No missed days from work/school due to symptoms
Learn more: My Asthma Control Assessment
Q: What is the best way to identify the type of asthma someone may have? Can this be done with their primary care physician, or do they need to see a specialist?
A: The best way to identify the type of asthma someone has is to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Keep your physician updated on your symptoms and ask if a referral to specialist would be helpful. This may be necessary, for example, for severe asthma because symptoms may be hard to control with standard therapy.
Learn more: Severe Asthma
Q: Is it important for a patient to partner with their doctor to manage asthma symptoms? Is there information that can help a patient/caregiver know what can be expected at office visits? How does a patient know what types of treatment care options are available?
A: Yes, it is very important for a patient to work with their doctor to manage their asthma symptoms. A patient should be prepared to give a health history with details of their condition including respiratory symptoms, exacerbations, reoccurring and additional health problems such as allergies or GERD, current medications, frequency of rescue medication use, personalized emergency instructions, Asthma Action Plan, etc. Your doctor should be able to educate you on treatment options. The more you are actively involved and engaged in assessing your treatment options, the more likely you are to get maximum benefits. So be sure to let your doctor know what’s important to you. You should also ask your healthcare team about resources/websites that provide accurate medical information.
Learn more: Shared Decision-Making Worksheet
Q: What additional resources and support groups do you think would be helpful for new asthma patients?
A: In the U.S. there are more than 25 million people with asthma, which is about 1 in 13 people so it is important to know that they are not alone in their asthma journey. I would encourage every new asthma patient to take action and talk to their doctor about asthma, its impact on their life and align their goals for treatment. It is important that they have an Asthma Action Plan created WITH their doctor/healthcare provider, to find support groups, and participate in educational seminars like those offered by the American Lung Association. Lastly, I would reinforce that although asthma can’t be cured, asthma can be managed. You can do this with support from your family and your healthcare team and also with other asthma patients by joining the American Lung Association’s Better Breathers Network.
Join now: Better Breathers Network
Blog last updated: May 24, 2021