Thursday, July 25, 2024

Asthma Uncovered: Separating fact from fiction

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Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that demands accurate information for effective management. With 34.3 million cases, and less than 9% receiving proper inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) treatment, the high burden of asthma in India is exacerbated by myths and stigmas, leading to delayed intervention and improper care. By dispelling common misconceptions surrounding asthma, we can foster a better understanding of the condition and potentially help improve not just patient outcomes but lives.

Our aim in this piece is to debunk prevalent misconceptions about asthma, and so, Dr. Veerapaneni Vishnun Rao, consultant in allergy-asthma, child diseases, Swasa Hospital, Hyderabad sheds light on the realities of this often-misunderstood condition:
Myth: Asthma is not a serious disease
Fact: Asthma flare-ups or attacks can be life-threatening. Seeking medical intervention and adhering to doctor-prescribed treatment plans is crucial to preventing attacks, reducing inflammation, and effectively managing the disease.
Myth: Asthma can be cured easily
Fact: Asthma is a chronic (ongoing) disease, which means it doesn’t go away and needs sustained, continuous medical management. Here, Inhalation therapy remains central to asthma management in order to control symptoms and minimize the risk of flare-ups.
Myth: If you aren’t wheezing, it isn’t asthma.
Fact: Asthma symptoms, like wheezing, can differ from person to person. Wheezing is usually loud enough to hear, but sometimes it’s only detectable with a stethoscope. If a flare-up is severe, airflow can be blocked in parts of the lung, leading to no wheezing.  Therefore, it’s important to seek a clinical diagnosis where a lung function test like a Spirometry, peak flow meter or FeNO test is administered.  
Myth: Asthma is just a childhood disease
Fact: While some children’s asthma may indeed disappear over time, others might experience temporary relief only to have it return years later. Additionally, there are cases where children never outgrow asthma. It’s crucial to understand that asthma has no cure. In cases of uncontrolled asthma, permanent lung damage may occur, highlighting the importance of effective management. However, with the appropriate treatment and management strategies, most children can control their asthma effectively, leading to improved quality of life and minimised risk of long-term complications.
Myth: Asthma is an anxiety disorder and all in your head
Fact: This is inaccurate. Asthma is a chronic lung condition characterised by inflammation and narrowing of the airways. It is triggered by various factors, including physical exertion, allergens, infections, and emotional stress. Contrary to misconception, asthma is not a psychological issue—it’s a physical ailment rooted in the lungs. While asthma is primarily a physical condition affecting the lungs, emotional stress can exacerbate symptoms for some individuals. Managing stress levels can be an important aspect of overall asthma management.

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