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Asthma FAQs (cont.)

What Are the Effects of Asthma?

  • Five thousand people die each year from asthma.
  • Each year, asthma is responsible for 1.5 million emergency department visits, 500,000 hospital admissions, and 100 million days of restricted activity.
  • In lost work and productivity, asthma is responsible for approximately $13 billion each year.
  • Asthma accounts for more school absences and more hospitalizations of children than any other chronic illness.

When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for Asthma?

If someone has had symptoms of asthma, talking with a doctor is important. A doctor will ask questions about that person's symptoms, medical history, and medications.

The doctor will also perform breathing tests or blood tests to search for and rule out other causes of the symptoms (not all wheezing is asthma). A chest X-ray may also be taken to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

If a person does have asthma, he or she will need to work out an action plan with the doctor in order to be prepared for an asthma attack.

Anyone who feels acutely short of breath or feels that he or she may be in respiratory distress should immediately seek care in an emergency department. This is also true for people with asthma who feel their symptoms are worse than usual or are not responding to usual treatment.

Can Asthma Be Cured?

Asthma symptoms and attacks can improve with treatment or with time, but asthma as a disease is not curable. Treatment can go on for a long time, and some people have to use medication for the rest of their lives.

Approximately half of children diagnosed with asthma outgrow their disease by late adolescence or early adulthood and require no further treatment. In some of these individuals, however, exposure to major respiratory irritants (such as smoking, massive exposure to fumes, etc.) later in life may trigger asthma symptoms once again.

Patients who do not control their asthma usually develop more severe asthma over time. More importantly, the chronic airway inflammation that can be found in asthma when left unchecked can result in permanent airway damage. This damage can cause patients to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In fact, the most common cause for the development of COPD in nonsmokers is asthma.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/4/2016

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