Five Consequences of Asthma

Health Professional

While most asthmatics can gain control of their disease and live a relatively normal life, all asthmatics will have to learn to live with, and deal with, the consequences of asthma.

1. You must live with your rescue inhaler.   Most asthma experts recommend that every asthmatic have access to an asthma rescue inhaler, such as albuterol, at all times. This means that every time you leave your house you must remember to take your inhaler with you.

The nice thing is that inhalers are small and compact, and easily fit into a pocket or purse.  The down side, and hence the consequence, is you can never (or at least should never) leave home without it.  This is a consequence for 100 percent of asthmatics.

2.  You must take your asthma controller medicine every day.   Asthma controller medicine is meant to decrease inflammation in your lungs, and prevent your body from resonding to your asthma triggers, such as dust mites, cockroach urine, molds, fungus, etc.

If you forget to take this medicine,  you increase your body's susceptibility of responding to your asthma triggers.  When exposed to your triggers without your medicine on board, you are more likely to have an asthma attack.

This is a consequence for 100 percent of asthmatics who are prescribed asthma controller medicines.

3.  You may develop some degree of anxiety. A study performed by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington at Seattle found that as many as 25 percent of asthmatics have anxiety issues, even when they are feeling well.

According to the experts who performed the study, there's still a lot of unknowns about the link.  For instance, no one knows why it occurs or what effect it has on your asthma.  However, by working with your doctor you should be able to maintain good control of both your asthma and your anxiety.

4.  You may develop stomach trouble. In order to treat an acute attack, physicians often prescribe systemic corticosteroids.  While this is often necessary to decrease inflammation in your lungs, it may also result in side effects, such as irritation of your stomach lining.

This can cause short-term problems such as indigestion, and long-term problems, such as peptic ulcers. This can also lead to an increased risk for gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD.  This is when stomach contents can be regurgitated and swallowed.

GERD may trigger an acute asthma attack, and may also cause chronic lung scarring, thus worsening asthma.  However, by working with your doctor, you should be able to prevent acute episodes of asthma, and thus prevent the need of using systemic steroids.

5.  You may develop lung scarring.   Perhaps the most severe consequence of asthma is lung scarring.  This is when the tissue lining your air passages becomes thicker.  Some refer to such lung scarring as airway remodeling because the lining of the air passages is changed.

This change, by the way, is permanent, and there is no treatment for it.  This can be caused by GERD, but more likely it's caused by constant, prolonged, and untreated asthma attacks.

The 10 percent of asthmatics who end up with lung scarring will always have some degree of chronic shortness of breath. However, because there are better asthma treatment options today as compared to 20 years ago, those who develop this consequence of asthma should be on the decline.

Bottom line

Until there is a cure for asthma, all asthmatics will have to carry a rescue inhaler, and many others will be forced to take asthma controller medicines on a daily basis. However, with asthma experts constantly learning more about this disease, and this wisdom leading to better treatment options, the other consequences of asthma are steadily on the decline.