Asthma is a chronic disease that inflames and narrows your lungs’ airways. It causes wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. An estimated 300 million people suffer from asthma globally, according to the World Health Organization. By 2025, that number will grow by more than 100 million.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that asthma affects about 9.5 percent of U.S. women and 7 percent of men. With this condition on the rise, researchers are developing additional treatments. The New England Journal of Medicine published a recent St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and McMaster University study that discovered a new way to reduce lung inflammation in patients with mild allergic asthma, improving their long-term quality of life.
Study Blocks Inflammation-Causing Protein
Canadian researchers determined that epithelial cells lining the lungs’ airways produce thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), which causes inflammation, on a constant basis. This ever-increasing protein plays a key role in generating asthmatic responses. For the first time, scientists showed that treating subjects with the AMG 157 antibody that blocks the action of this particular protein reduced baseline inflammation significantly. It also provided inhaled allergen resistance by improving asthmatic symptoms markedly.
The small double-blind, controlled study recruited patients with mild allergic asthma from five different sites across Canada. Dr. Paul O’Byrne, executive director of the Firestone Institute of Respiratory Health at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and chair of the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, and other researchers assigned subjects randomly to receive either three monthly AMG 157 or placebo doses intravenously. Investigators monitored the treated and control groups to test the effects of antibody treatment on asthma. O’Byrne noted that the patients tolerated the antibody very well. But surprisingly, the study team found that all of the patients who received the antibody exhibited reduced lung inflammation prior to environmental allergen exposure.
“So they got better even before we gave them the allergen to inhale,” he said. “By giving this antibody, we are able to block a protein that begins the inflammation and starts the whole process off. So it’s what we call upstream of the inflammatory response, and by blocking that, we are able to intervene before the inflammation develops.” While this study looked only at patients with mild allergic asthma, the researchers believe that their results could lead to new types of treatments for more severe forms of asthma as well.
Dr. Sven-Erik Dahlen, director of Karolinska Institutet’s Centre for Allergy Research in Sweden, noted that the findings can affect the direction of asthma research, with future studies paying closer attention to TSLP. “This is really a new kid that has entered the asthma block,” he said.
Traditional asthma treatments include bronchodilators and corticosteroids that you inhale. The Symbicort Turbuhaler is a long-term control medication that combines both types to make breathing much easier and help you recover from asthma attacks quickly. Formoterol is a bronchodilator thatreduces rigidity in your muscles. Budesonide, the corticosteroid component, controls swelling in your air channels.
Symbicort doesn’t treat sudden asthma symptoms. You doctor also can prescribe a rescue inhaler like ProAir HFA for as-needed quick relief. Its principal drug is Albuterol, which facilitates the relaxation of air channels in your lungs and intercostal muscles, making asthma attack recovery easier.
Consequences of Improper Inhaler Techniques
You can administer an adequate and effective inhalation drug dose only if you follow the correct inhaler-specific technique. Research shows that more than 75 percent of asthmatics don’t have their asthma under good control, and one of the main reasons is improper inhalation dispensing. Health care providers also associate poor inhaler techniques with frequent emergency room visits.
Are You Using Your Inhaler Correctly?
Watch this video for step-by-step instructions on how to operate your prescribed asthma inhaler properly. You’ll learn how to deliver a full dose where you need it — deep in your lungs — without wasting any of your medication.
Create an Asthma Action Plan
Asthma shouldn’t limit activities, interrupt sleep, or make you worry about asthma attacks constantly. The Mayo Clinic advises writing an action plan to measure your asthma control and minimize the disruptions it causes. Work with your doctor to customize a strategy that can help you:
Avoid asthma triggers. List your asthma triggers and add notes on how to avoid them.
Track asthma symptoms. Record when they interfere with daily activities. Note how often you use your quick-relief inhaler.
Record peak flow readings. A hand-held peak flow meter can measure your asthma. Lower than usual readings indicate that your lungs aren’t working as well as they should. This may be the first sign of worsening asthma.
Judge asthma control. A traffic-light system of green, yellow and red zones that correspond to worsening symptoms can help you identify asthma flare signs and determine disease severity.
Recognize and treat asthma attacks. If your symptoms worsen quickly, follow your plan’s instructions for using quick-relief medications or other steps to control your disease.
Adjust your medications. Your plan should indicate when to make medication adjustments based on symptom severity. Make sure you understand when and how to use each medication as well as what to expect.
Know when to seek emergency care. Low peak flow meter readings will signal when you’re having an emergency asthma attack that you can’t handle at home. Seek professional medical treatment immediately.