Asthma Week

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General Information

Asthma Week

Asthma is defined as a syndrome, a constellation of symptoms, associated with reversible narrowing of the airways and airway inflammation. Although asthma is thought to be a disease characterized by reversible airway obstruction, in some patients the airway narrowing becomes irreversible. To date, we incompletely understand the causes of asthma and there remains no cure. Recent evidence, however, suggests that patients with asthma are not identical. There remains tremendous heterogeneity in the cause of asthma, response to therapy and prognosis.

These new findings have profoundly affected our approach to asthma care. Each patient must be considered within the context of their susceptibility to asthma triggers and their specific response to treatments. Advances in our characterization of airway inflammation has led to the approval of new biologic agents targeting specific inflammatory cells important in promoting airway narrowing.  These agents are administered twice a month or monthly by injection and have long lasting effects.  Although the biologic agents are expensive, in patients with severe persistent disease who face the requirement of continual use of oral steroids, such new drugs holds great promise in decreasing the need for oral steroids, hospitalizations or emergency services.

Unfortunately, not all patients with asthma manifest airway inflammation that can be remediated with biologics. Other approaches in patients without airway inflammation but uncontrolled disease may benefit from bronchial thermoplasty. This procedure directly alters airway smooth muscle function and improves asthma outcomes in severe persistent asthma without profound airway inflammation. This approach however requires three semi-invasive treatments and accordingly are not used in patients with complex medical problems or in children.  As asthma research advances, even more biologic agents will become available to treat those patients with the most severe disease and unique airway information. The identification of specific triggers that induce asthma symptoms remains a target to improve asthma care. Remediation of specific triggers and avoidance continues to play an important role in the management of asthma. The ultimate goal in asthma treatment focuses on the use of the least amount of medication to maximize a patient's functional status and quality of life while avoiding asthma exacerbations.

Important Facts About Asthma

  1. More than 24 million Americans have asthma. This includes 7.4% of adults and 8.6% of children, making it one of the most common and costly diseases. Asthma is the leading chronic disease in children. It is also the top reasons that kids miss school.

  2. The CDC reports that in 2013, approximately 3,360 Americans died from asthma. Low income and minority children bear the heaviest burden of asthma, including death.

  3. An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies (1 in 6 Americans) including indoor/outdoor, food & drug, latex, insect, skin and eye allergies.

  4. Allergy is the 5th leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all ages, and the 3rd most common chronic disease among children under 18 years old.