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By Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, asthma is a chronic disease that causes swelling of the airways, which makes it harder for air to travel from the nose and mouth to the lungs. Asthma symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Asthma affects everyone differently, and it’s important to know your triggers, which can include exercise, airborne irritants and allergens. If untreated, asthma can be fatal.
Approximately 1 in 13 Americans suffer from asthma, and it is the leading chronic disease in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While asthma is more common in those with certain risk factors, like family history, anyone can develop asthma. Those who suffer from chronic lung diseases like asthma carry a greater risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19.
If you have asthma symptoms, contact your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment options. There’s no cure for asthma, but it can be managed. Be sure to take medicines correctly and as prescribed by your doctor, and always keep an inhaler on hand and know how to use it. For a child with asthma, it’s important to inform teachers and coaches of their diagnosis. Talk to your doctor about how to recognize an asthma attack—which can include worsening symptoms that aren’t resolved through treatment—and when you should seek emergency care.
A newer, innovative outpatient procedure is available to treat severe, persistent asthma. Bronchial thermoplasty is performed by a trained physician who uses gentle heat to relax the muscles that inhibit airways in asthma sufferers. Many patients have seen sustained improvements in their symptoms for up to a year after treatment, according to the Yale Center for Asthma and Airway Disease. Speak with your doctor about whether this treatment is right for you.
Asthma is not a one-size-fits-all disease, and it changes over time. Meet with your doctor regularly to discuss your symptoms and treatment plan. With the right tools, you can live a full, healthy life despite your diagnosis.
Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D. is the president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company.
(For more Office Visit columns by Dr. Cunningham, visit The Journal Record.)
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