DAYTON — Asthma sufferers should monitor their disease on a consistent basis no differently than a diabetic diligently checks their blood sugar, but that seldom happens, according to Amaresh Nath, MD, with Middletown Pulmonary and Critical Care.
“The difficult part of asthma is the lack of education among patients,” said Dr. Nath, a Premier Health Specialists’ physician. “Just like a diabetic knows to measure their blood sugar or a person with hypertension knows to measure their blood pressure, an asthmatic should know how important it is to regularly measure what we call their peak flow rate. It’s not just the responsibility of the patients, but also the caregivers. Are we providing adequate care that communicates the importance of good management?”
Dr. Nath’s professional opinions – formed out of his experience with his own patient population – were recently echoed in a study published earlier this year in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The study, conducted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, concluded that there is much room for improvement when it comes to the management of the disease. Among its top recommendations is a call for improved communication between patients and their physicians.
Asthma is characterized by inflammation of the air passages, which results in the temporary narrowing of the airways that transport air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. More Americans than ever before say they are suffering from asthma and it has been identified as one of the country’s most common and costly diseases, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
Currently there is no cure for asthma, but the disease can be managed with proper prevention and treatment. Dr. Nath said one of the best ways to manage the disease is for patients to regularly monitor their ability to push air out of their lungs through a peak flow monitor. The monitor can tell patients what zone they are in and if they require additional medication or assistance like that which is only found at emergency departments. Many patients are given a monitor when they are diagnosed, but rarely follow through on its use.
Another way to manage asthma is by the proper use of medication. However, according to the college’s recent study, this remains a challenge as well. For example, in the study only eight to 13 percent of asthma patients continued to refill their inhaled corticosteroid prescription after one year. These medications – when taken early and when prescribed- may help improve asthma control, normalize lung function and possibly prevent permanent injury to the airways, according to the researchers.
Specialists like Dr. Nath and primary care physicians both agree that proper asthma care starts with a strong management plan. Joe Leithold, MD, with Woodcroft Family Practice, often talks to his asthma patients about what he calls “The Rules of 2.”
“There are three of these rules that I encourage my patients to know,” said Dr. Leithold, a Premier HealthNet physician practicing in Beavercreek. “The first one is that your asthma is not well controlled if you are using your inhaler more than twice a week. The second rule is that your asthma is not well controlled if you wake up two or more times a week short of breath. And the third rule is that your asthma is not well controlled if you are using two or more meter-dosed inhalers a year.”
Dr. Leithold often finds that patients have an inaccurate view of healthy asthma management.
“There are many patients who believe using an inhaler every day is okay,” Dr. Leithold said. “It is important to define to our patients what it means to have asthma under control otherwise it leads to bad outcomes. We are talking about airway obstruction. We are talking about not being able to breathe. We are talking about repeated visits to the emergency room and missed time away from work.”
Proper management of the disease doesn’t just affect those dealing with it. When it is not controlled properly it also can have a significant impact on our nation’s economy. According to the AAFA, asthma is the fourth-leading cause of work absenteeism, resulting in nearly 15 million missed or lost workdays each year, which translates into a total cost of nearly $3 billion in lost productivity.
To learn more about asthma visit www.premierhealthnet.com or www.premierspecialists.com.