The majority of the more than 25 million Americans living with asthma enjoy active, healthy lives. But for others, despite using high dose asthma medicines and avoiding triggers, severe symptoms are a part of daily life.
If this describes your experience, it could be severe asthma, a type of asthma that affects approximately 5-10 percent of those with the condition. Severe asthma is dangerous; increasing the risk of death, illness, and depression, and limiting one’s ability to work or go to school. It is responsible for 50 percent of all asthma healthcare costs.
Even with severe asthma control is attainable, according to American Lung Association, which is offering these four questions and answers to help you determine your next steps:
1. How do I know if my asthma symptoms are under control? With severe asthma, people tend to have three or more symptoms (sometimes daily), such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing or wheezing, and most likely wake-up nightly due to those symptoms. Also, if you’ve gone to the emergency department or were hospitalized due to asthma at least two times during the past year and were given oral corticosteroids to keep asthma under control, your asthma is most likely not well controlled. Despite all your efforts to take your medications as prescribed, your symptoms continue. If this sounds like you, you may have severe asthma.
2. How do I know if I have severe asthma? There are several different types of asthma and knowing what kind you have can help in your treatment plan and management of symptoms. Testing for severe asthma may involve taking a blood sample, analyzing your lung mucus or taking a breath droplet test. These tests are looking for biomarkers, or identifiers that cause Type-2 inflammation, or other factors that cause non-Type-2 inflammation, resulting in your daily uncontrolled symptoms. Common types of severe asthma include allergic, eosinophilic (also known as e-asthma) and non-eosinophilic asthma. If your specialist confirms a diagnosis of severe asthma and determines your specific type, they will develop a personalized treatment plan with you.
3. What severe asthma treatments are available for me? Treatment options may include:
• Biologics: medicines targeting biomarkers causing type 2 inflammation.
• Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT): a minor lung procedure that applies heat to the airways to decrease overgrowth (remodeling) of the smooth muscles and improve symptoms.
• Antibiotic medicines or oral corticosteroids: medicines targeting non-type 2 inflammation caused when there are unknown biomarkers, or as a result of other health conditions. Note: If possible, it is important to discuss with your doctor how to best reduce the need for oral corticosteroids.
4. Where do I go from here? What actions can I start today? Gaining control of your asthma starts by taking American Lung Association’s My Asthma Control Assessment to determine your level of asthma control. Once you have a better understanding of your asthma, you may need to see a specialist who can better explain what type of asthma you have and what treatment options are available. Make an appointment to visit your asthma doctor to start the discussion, and download the Lung Association’s Shared Decision-Making Worksheet. This tool, available at Lung.org/severe-asthma, can help you discuss with your specialist which treatment plan might be best for you.
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