The best way to manage asthma is to avoid triggers, have the right treatment plan, and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Let’s review in this article asthma complications- both short term and long term effects of uncontrolled asthma
If the symptoms of asthma are mild, yet uncontrolled the main complications include persistent cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing when inhaling and exhaling. These are the common symptoms and asthma which can lead to daytime fatigue, trouble sleeping at night, inability to fully enjoy life, and overall reduced quality of life.
Uncontrolled asthma increases the risk of acute asthma attacks and more severe symptoms over time.
Asthma in children
Childhood asthma is particularly problematic, as the lungs function reaches maximum levels around the age of 20-25. This means that inflamed airways can lead to more damage to the lung tissues. Affecting 6 million American children aged 0-17, childhood asthma is responsible for many emergency visits, hospitalization, and missed days of school. More than half of the children in the US experience one acute attack or more per year (2016 data, CDC). Many children with mild asthma do not experience wheezing, but only a cough which is more severe with exercise.
Many children outgrow asthma. However, about 1 in 4 children will either continue to have acute attacks or experience relapses later on in life. Children who have severe cases of asthma, smokers, and sensitivity to dust mites are at increased risk to continue to have asthma later on in life. more likely to have asthma as adults.
Long term complications for both children and adults
The airways change the normal structure and undergo remodeling if there is chronic inflammation and irritation of the respiratory tract. The airways become more narrow, the lungs develop scars and breathing becomes progressively more difficult. On the other hand, asthma drugs reduce the swelling and thus can reduce the risk of lung damage. However, if the airways are suffering remodeling and damage, the drugs tend to be less effective. For this reason, it is important to start the asthma treatment as soon as possible and control the symptoms as much as possible.
Inflamed, hyperactive airways and excessive mucus also increase the risk of infections that can affect the sinuses (sinusitis), bronchi (bronchitis), or the lungs (pneumonia).
The lung function declines with age, and asthma speeds up this process of reduced function of the lungs.
How do you know asthma is well controlled?
This condition is considered well managed when a person experiences symptoms no more than two days a week and the symptoms do not interfere with sleep (i.e. waking up at night) more than 1-2 nights per month. This means that all normal day-to-day activities can be performed without difficulty. Well-controlled asthma also means no more than 1 asthma attack per year that requires several days of treatments to manage the attack. The peak flow doesn’t drop below 80% of the best personal number and there is no need to take relievers for more than 2 days weekly.
It is also important to know the difference between uncontrolled asthma and severe asthma. If a person with asthma continues to have symptoms despite taking the medication and following a treatment plan, then this may be a case of severe asthma. Severe asthma interferes with day-to-day activities, causes missed days at school or work and significantly affects sleep and energy levels. Severe attacks require emergency visits and hospitalization. More drugs and higher doses of medication are needed and yet the symptoms are not well under control. Doctors now classify asthma as intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, and severe persistent. To prevent complications, the goal is to have the symptoms under control as much as possible, regardless of the severity of asthma.
When it comes to how well-controlled asthma is, there are 3 subtypes: well-controlled, not well controlled, and very poorly controlled. To avoid short and long-term complications, the goal is to have well-controlled asthma.
Education is key to keeping the symptoms under control and thus preventing short and long-term complications. Healthcare professionals know that the best asthma education involves four concepts: education and advice about environmental control ( ie. identifying and reducing exposure to triggers), having an asthma treatment plan in place, teaching about early signs and symptoms of an acute attack, and teaching how to respond best when an acute attack develops. Asthma education also involves learning proper inhaler techniques, how to use a spacer with a metered-dose inhaler, or proper training when a new device is recommended. Possible side effects of the drugs have to be monitored, and the treatment adjusted as necessary. A person is more likely to adhere to a treatment plan and use it properly if the basic concepts are well understood.
If you or your child has asthma, try to take a few steps further- get involved in online education, attend seminars, learn about new treatments and research and optimize the lifestyle.