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Breathe Easy

"Asthma diagnosis and treatment"
By: Stef dela Cruz, MDBreathe Easy

There is no single test that would give a definitive diagnosis of asthma. Instead, a review of one’s medical history, symptoms, signs, and pulmonary function test results are recommended. Pulmonary function tests reveal a decrease in lung function that responds well to bronchodilators (drugs used to prevent airway narrowing).

A person with asthma may complain of wheezes, difficulty in breathing, or coughing. These symptoms often recur intermittently, a characteristic that may help differentiate asthma from other respiratory problems. Triggers are sometimes identified in the medical history. Someone with asthma may also have other related conditions, such as allergies, atopic dermatitis, and allergic rhinitis.

Controlling asthma means reducing the severity and frequency of symptomatic attacks (exacerbations), maintaining one’s quality of life, and achieving good pulmonary function. The treatment of asthma therefore involves two plans: a baseline or maintenance regimen and an acute exacerbation regimen.

The maintenance regimen is taken even when there are no symptoms of an asthma attack. It helps achieve asthma control, lessening the frequency of attacks. And if an attack should occur, an acute exacerbation regimen comes into play, reducing the severity of symptoms and putting an end to the acute attack.

In the elderly, anticholinergic drugs have a greater role in asthma management than in younger patients. Beta-blockers should be given with caution, especially to those with cardiovascular disease. Otherwise, treatment guidelines proposed by the U.S. National Institute of Health for the elderly is similar to those for younger adults.

Asthma management is best individualized. Adults often suffer from other medical conditions that affect the choice of drugs for asthma management. So if you are experiencing asthma symptoms, it is best for you to consult a pulmonologist.

Read more:
Breathe Easy: Managing Asthma in Children
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