When it comes to understanding all of the new asthma treatments available, it’s natural to feel a little confused.
The important thing to remember is that asthma is a “variable” disease. In other words, the symptoms can vary from person to person, and even the same person’s condition may fluctuate throughout the year.
If you have asthma, your doctor will:
- Explain how you can keep your asthma under control by avoiding your personal triggers
- Prescribe medication that will help minimize your symptoms
- Work with you so you have a written Asthma Action Plan
- Recommend that you visit on a regular basis so that your symptoms can be monitored and your treatments adjusted if necessary
In order to minimize possible side effects, your doctor will prescribe the lowest dose of medication needed to control your symptoms. It may take some experimenting to find out what that dose is. You and your doctor might have to try a few different doses or a few different medications before you find what works best for you. Over time, your medication needs may change.
The asthma medications that are prescribed may differ from patient to patient. It is important that you understand how to take your medications and why you are taking them. Discuss your symptoms and asthma control with your doctor and work together to get the right treatment and dose of medication so that you can lead a normal life, unrestricted by asthma symptoms. These medications are prescribed for you to gain asthma control and to relieve your asthma symptoms. Do not stop taking your medications on your own.
Remember in the asthma definition that asthma means having some underlying inflammation in your airways as well as having bronchoconstriction. Because there are two components you may need different medications to treat each component.
Asthma medications are delivered by inhaler devices that deliver the medication straight to the airways. They can also be prescribed as tablets.
It is important that you use your inhaler correctly to ensure that you are getting maximum benefit from your medication. Ask your Doctor, Asthma Educator or Pharmacist to make sure that you are using your inhaler correctly at your next visit.
Two Kinds of Medication
Most people with asthma take two kinds of medication. That’s because each asthma medication treats only one aspect of the condition:
- Controllers, also called “preventers,” reduce inflammation in the airways. Controllers should be taken every day. You will know that the controller medication is working because you will, over time, have fewer and fewer symptoms. When your asthma is totally controlled and you have no symptoms, do not stop taking them. If you do, the airway inflammation may return.
- Relievers help alleviate, or relieve, symptoms quickly. If your symptom is cough, wheeze, chest tightness or shortness of breath, use a reliever medication to reduce symptoms. Relievers are only a short-term solution to your breathing problem as they treat the bronchoconstriction or tightening of the airway but they do not treat the underlying airway inflammation. Monitor how often you use your reliever as increased use over time is telling you that your asthma is worsening. Tell your doctor or refer to your Asthma Action Plan if you start using your reliever medication more.
For more information about good asthma control and what it means, visit “How to control asthma”.