Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that can have a serious impact on your quality of life. Different triggers can cause an asthma flare-up and make breathing difficult. One of the best treatments for asthma is to learn self-management skills so you can take control of your asthma, rather than having asthma symptoms take control of you. Although there is no cure for asthma, proper symptom management can mean enjoying a full and healthy life.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic health condition that makes breathing more difficult, especially during exercise. For some people, asthma symptoms may be quite minor. For others, a severe asthma attack can be life-threatening. Over time, your asthma symptoms can change, so it’s important to track flare-ups and daily symptoms closely.
Asthma symptoms and risks
The appearance of asthma symptoms can change with time, but typically include:
- Chest tightness or pain
- Itchy throat
- Problems sleeping at night due to shortness of breath
- Unusual shortness of breath
- Wheezing, especially when exhaling
If you already take an asthma medication, increased medication use can be an indication that your symptoms are getting worse.
Those who have a close family member with asthma have a greater chance of developing asthma themselves. There are several other risk factors for developing asthma as well:
- A history of respiratory infections
- Being overweight
- Environmental factors, such as allergies, air pollution or toxins in the workplace
- Smoking, including exposure to secondhand smoke
Asthma diagnosis and screening
To diagnose asthma, your doctor may perform one or several different tests:
- A physical exam and medical history
- Airway obstruction tests
- Allergy testing
- Asthma trigger tests
- Imaging tests, such as an X-ray
- Lung function tests
Asthma is classified by how serious the symptoms are and how often they occur.
The best asthma treatments are centered around the individual and supported by evidence-based research. At The University of Kansas Health System, our approach emphasizes asthma self-management education and the most advanced asthma treatments to provide the best opportunity for asthma control.
A very important part of asthma self-management is understanding what may trigger your asthma and then controlling the triggers. From there, you can develop avoidance strategies to help improve your asthma control. Coming up with solutions on how to self-manage your asthma symptoms is an important part of effective asthma treatment.
Another key aspect of asthma self-management is understanding your medications and the proper use of your medication delivery devices. There are 2 main types of asthma medications:
Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is another option for treating asthma symptoms. This therapy involves gradually exposing your immune system to a small amount of the allergen that triggers your asthma. The goal is to build up enough tolerance in your body for you to experience asthma symptom relief. Not everyone is a candidate for immunotherapy. Our doctors can help determine if allergy shots are right for you.
For those with suffering from severe asthma, Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT) delivered by the Alair™ System may be recommended. This asthma treatment is performed by inserting a scope into the lung, and delivering a precise, controlled amount of thermal energy. BT reduces constriction in the airway muscle and promotes easier breathing.
Why choose us for asthma control
The University of Kansas Health System features the Community of Asthma Coaches Helping (COACH) program. COACH provides a team of experts to help you take control of your asthma. Additionally, our Asthma Complications in Exercise and Sports (ACES) program offers specialized exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) care to recreational and competitive athletes, as well as those who experience breathing problems during routine exercise.
We strive to understand how we can help you achieve your best quality of life by listening to how asthma affects you. Once we understand your unique healthcare needs, we can create a personalized asthma self-management plan for you to begin taking control of your asthma. Your self-management plan will follow the National Institutes of Health asthma treatment guidelines, providing you the most up-to-date asthma treatment options.
Our interdisciplinary care team offers the most advanced therapies to manage obstructive lung diseases. As an academic health system, we provide unique treatments, resources and clinical trials that may not be available elsewhere.
Asthma resources and support
Our asthma care team offers educational programs for community organizations in order to have a positive impact on preventing the burden of asthma. Our outreach efforts provide organizations in our community the resources that can have a positive impact on its members who have asthma symptoms. Our goal is to help organizations improve their members' awareness of strategies to help prevent asthma and EIB.
The Asthma Center serves as an extension to other health care providers. We can provide our COACH or ACES programs to help treat those with severe asthma. Treatment can be individualized to meet the referring provider and patient's needs.
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