For every disease, there is a governing body that publishes periodic guidelines for diagnosis, treatment, and care that guide both professionals and people with the condition.
For asthma, the governing body in the U.S. is the National Asthma Education Program (NAEP), an arm of the National Institutes of Health. Their asthma guidelines were rewritten earlier this year and the final version has just been published.
As with the international GINA guidelines published earlier this year, the main focus of the new U.S. guidelines is on asthma control and prevention of attacks. (GINA stands for Global Initiative for Asthma.)
The experts maintain that, although asthma is a chronic illness with no cure that can have serious implications, asthmatics should be able to live without limits or serious disability if they keep their disease under control.
The new guidelines emphasize the importance of doctor-patient partnering and ongoing coordinated asthma monitoring and management. Here are some of the specific actions recommended in the guidelines:
- Every person with asthma should have an up-to-date written Asthma Action Plan that guides daily care & handling of emergencies.
- All asthmatics need to be seen by a doctor at least twice a year, even if their asthma appears to be under control.
- Asthma education is essential and should be geared to age, cultural differences, and literacy level.
- All asthma patients should take an active role in their own care.
- Asthma treatment, based on severity, has been refined, by breaking it into 6 steps now, rather than the previous 4.
The guidelines emphasize that when patients and their doctors work together in following these guidelines, symptoms can be prevented and lifestyle should suffer no negative impacts because of asthma.
Inhaled steroids continue to be the most effective treatment for asthma, as stated in the guidelines. Unfortunately, many people still do not take an inhaled steroid for asthma. Some of that may be attributed to fear of steroid side effects, but those fears are mostly unfounded, according to research.
It's important to note that inhaled steroids are nothing like the anabolic steroids used by some athletes to enhance performance. The medicine in inhaled steroids for asthma is very similar to the body's own chemicals.
Although adults often benefit from taking a combination medication that contains both inhaled steroids and a beta agonist medication, children age 5 to 11 seem to benefit most from inhaled steroids alone.
Another important point from the guidelines: You need to take your asthma controller medicine every day, exactly as prescribed, whether you are having asthma symptoms or not. That's why it's called a controller medicine—because it controls, or prevents, asthma symptoms. If you don't take it, it can't do it's job.
Published On: November 15, 2007