Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert Romelia Walters.
What used to be considered a childhood disease is no longer as more and more adults are being diagnosed with asthma. Of course, thousands of children are still being diagnosed with some level of asthma severity. But joining the ranks of those living with asthma are adults, primarily women. Who knows exactly what is causing this trend. Some experts will say it's due to hormonal changes, others will say it's a result of our normal aging process. Who knows? But the fact is, adults are getting it, too. So you have asthma. Now what?
First things first: Don't panic Asthma may be a chronic disease with no cure; however, it is definitely manageable. Most people diagnosed with asthma will continue to live life as normally as before. Minor changes may be incorporated to make sure breathing is easy. Others may have to make major changes just to breathe, period. Whatever your diagnosis -- mild, severe, exercise-induced -- you can get through this. You survived the 80s, right? Some of you even survived the 70s. Whatever decade you're in now, be comforted that we know so much more of asthma than we did back then.
Secondly, learn what you can about asthma. With many doctor visits in front of you specifically for asthma, you will hear a completely different language spoken than what you're used to including terms such as triggers, spacers, albuterol, bronchospasm, just to name a few. Who knew that people with asthma had their own lingo? Understanding the basics of asthma will help you catch on to this new way of speaking. The basics will also help you understand that asthma is controllable and you can have a normal, healthy life. A good place to start this journey of understanding is right here, on My Health Central. Check out the pages on adult asthma basics and the page with the different types of asthma medication you should be familiar with.
Next, determine your asthma therapy goals with your doctor. With your newfound knowledge of asthma, you now have the tools to have a conversation with your doctor about what asthma means to you and what you plan to do about it. Asthma is different for everyone and not everyone responds to the same kind of therapy. What may work for your co-worker that has exercise-induced asthma, or your grandchild with severe asthma, may not work for you. That is why it is so important to know how asthma affects you. Some of the things that make up asthma therapy goals are medicine use, trigger identification and avoidance, how to manage asthma at work and at home, smoking cessation for those who smoke and want to quit, and developing an asthma action plan for you to follow. This may seem like a lot to take in at one time, so make sure you continue to have that conversation with your doctor so that you know you are getting the best care and guidance to keep your asthma under control.
Your therapy goals should give you enough guidance and information to take care of your asthma between doctor visits, especially what to do if you have an asthma emergency.
Finally, follow your asthma action plan. This plan is what makes it possible for you to live with your asthma. Keep in mind that as your asthma changes (should this happen), your plan will change, too. That's why it is so important to keep your doctor visits so he can monitor how well you are controlled. If you seem to be experiencing a lot of asthma symptoms, write them down in a journal so you can share them with your doctor. Your plan is a direct reflection of your asthma symptoms. The more controlled you are, the less number of times your plan will change. However, if your asthma is not controlled and your having difficulty with symptoms, expect your plan to change to help get your symptoms under control. Click here for 5 steps to get your asthma under control and click here to learn more about developing an asthma action plan.
ALWAYS share your concerns about your asthma with your doctor. Your asthma therapy goals should reflect what you want to accomplish now that you have asthma. If you have access to one, visit with a certified Asthma Educator. This person can help you weave through the complexity of this disease and help you get on the road to control. After all, that is the ultimate goal for anyone with asthma, regardless of age: stay in control. Once this is achieved, you can do anything. Even surviving this decade of uncertainty.
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5 Steps to Getting Your Asthma Under Control