Asthma Treatment in Punta Gorda, FL
Asthma is a lifelong disease of the airways that affects approximately 25 million Americans, including 7 million children. During an asthma attack, the airways (bronchial tubes) swell, close up, and produce excess mucus, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma attacks occur in response to certain triggers such as physical factors like exercise or allergens like pollen.
Since asthma severity can change over time, it is important to detect and treat the condition early on. To schedule a consultation with a asthma specialist in Punta Gorda, call (239) 425-2900 or contact Dr. Doreen DeStefano online.
Causes and Symptoms of Asthma
It is unknown what exactly causes the development of asthma, but most experts believe that it is a combination of multiple genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors that may make an individual more susceptible to developing asthma include:
- Family history of asthma
- Childhood respiratory infections
- Certain allergies, including hay fever
- Being overweight
Childhood exposure to potential triggers may also play a role in the development of asthma; these triggers can include:
- Dust mites
- Tobacco smoke
- Air pollution
- Pet dander
There are many potential asthma triggers, and each asthma patient may have a different set of triggers.
Common triggers include:
- Tobacco smoke
- Air pollution
- Allergens (dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold)
- Infections (colds, flu, sinus infections)
- Exercise, especially in children
- Cold air or humidity
- Strong chemical odors such as phenol
- Strong emotions (anxiety, crying, or laughing)
- Medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or beta blockers
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
There exist several types of asthma, categorized by their triggers. The types of asthma are:
- Allergic asthma, which involves asthma symptoms associated with allergies and triggered by allergens
- Non-allergic asthma, which is caused by viral infections and irritants like tobacco smoke and strong odors
- Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, in which physical exertion causes the airways to narrow
- Occupational asthma, in which work-related irritants like dust and chemicals cause symptoms
- Cough variant asthma, in which a cough is the only asthma symptom
- Medication-induced asthma, which is caused or worsened by drugs like aspirin and NSAIDs
- Nocturnal asthma, in which symptoms are worst or only present at night
- Glucocorticoid-resistant asthma, which do not respond to anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid medications
Symptoms of an Asthma Attack
The most common symptom of an asthma attack is wheezing; other symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Coughing, often especially severe at night or early in the morning
As severe asthma symptoms can constitute a medical emergency, it is important to treat symptoms when they first become apparent. You should seek emergency care if your peak expiratory flow--the maximum speed at which you can exhale--is below 80% of your personal best peak flow for over half an hour, or if you have had to use your rescue inhaler more than your healthcare provider recommends.
Diagnosing Asthma in Punta Gorda
To diagnose asthma, a healthcare provider will first take a medical history and perform a physical exam. They may then perform any number of tests to check on the condition of the lungs, including:
- Chest X-ray
- Pulmonary function test to measure lung function; this is the best way to determine if someone has asthma
- Peak expiratory flow test to measure the maximum speed at which a patient can exhale
- Methacholine challenge test to see if the airways are sensitive to an irritant called methacholine
- Provocative tests for exercise and cold-induced asthma
- Sputum eosinophils test to check for white blood cells called eosinophils in the saliva and mucus; higher eosinophil count is associated with more severe asthma
- Nitric oxide test to check for increased levels of nitric oxide caused by inflammation
- Allergy tests, blood tests, sinus X-rays, or throat pH tests to see if other conditions are worsening asthma symptoms
An asthma doctor in Punta Gorda may also give a patient asthma medicine for a trial period and perform tests afterward to see if lung condition has improved.
There are many different ways to treat asthma; many healthcare providers and asthma centers help patients develop an asthma action plan that focuses on identifying triggers and learning how to avoid them, as well as determining if you need medication and outlining how and when to use it. Your action plan should also include when to seek emergency care.
Methods that you can use to avoid your potential triggers may include:
- Wearing protective gear in cold weather
- Using an air conditioner or humidifier
- Washing curtains or blinds
- Replacing carpeting with hardwood or linoleum flooring
- Using dustcovers on pillows and mattresses
- Treating gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Avoiding pets with fur or feathers; if you have these kinds of pets, regularly bathe/groom them
- Cleaning the living space frequently to prevent mol
Medications that treat asthma are often designed to open the airways, making breathing easier. There are two main types of asthma medication: anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators. Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce swelling and mucus production in the airways, and are most commonly used for long-term asthma control but can also be used to stop an asthma attack. Bronchodilators relax and open the airways, and are used for most rescue inhalers but may also be used for long-term asthma management.
Long-term asthma control medications reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack occurring. Generally taken daily, these medications can include:
- Oral theophylline
- Inhaled corticosteroids
- Oral leukotriene modifiers
- Inhaled, long-acting beta agonists
- Long-acting beta agonist and corticosteroid combination inhalers
Quick-relief (rescue) medications are used for rapid, short-term symptom relief during an asthma attack. These can include:
- Short-acting, inhaled beta agonists
- Oral and intravenous corticosteroids
If allergens are a strong trigger, allergy medications may be able to provide relief from symptoms.
In extreme cases, bronchial thermoplasty may be able to reduce asthma attacks. Done over the course of three sessions, this procedure heats the inside of the airways with an electrode to prevent them from being able to tighten.
Certain alternative treatments that may be able to supplement asthma medication include:
- Breathing exercises
- Black seed (Nigella sativa)
- Pycnogenol (pine bark extract)
Talk with a healthcare provider to determine which kind of asthma treatment is best for you.
Request Your Appointment Today
While asthma can be inconvenient at times, an asthma action plan can make the disease manageable. For more information about asthma in Punta Gorda, make an appointment with a qualified asthma specialist by calling (239) 425-2900 or contact Dr. Doreen DeStefano online.
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