Asthma is a serious lung disease, and anyone living with it should never underestimate the seriousness of an asthma attack. Even individuals with mild asthma are susceptible to severe attacks, and in rare instances, asthma can be fatal.
Fortunately, well-controlled asthma reduces the dangers and complications. An allergy and asthma specialist like Dr. Ulrike Ziegner at Riviera Allergy Medical Center can help you get your asthma under control so you can lead a full and active life.
Dangers of severe asthma
Up to 10% of people with asthma have severe or difficult-to-control symptoms. Whether you have moderate or severe asthma, you can experience severe asthma attacks. These asthma exacerbations are hard to get under control and don’t respond to treatment quickly. Asthma attacks can result in serious difficulty breathing or cause wheezing, difficulty speaking, blue lips or fingernails, and other symptoms that don’t improve after using your rescue inhaler. Some severe asthma attacks may require a visit to the emergency department. If you’re having a severe asthma attack that doesn’t respond to your standard treatment regimen, seek immediate medical attention.
Asthma and your health
Over time, asthma can impact your health in various ways.
Structural changes to the airway
In asthma, the airways become inflamed, causing them to swell and generate excess mucus. If this inflammation isn’t controlled with medication, it can lead to structural changes, mostly scaring, in the bronchial tubes of the lungs, known as “airway remodeling”. This "airway remodeling" is irreversible and may impair breathing.When inflammation in the lungs is not properly controlled by medications like corticosteroids or bronchodilators, scar tissue can form. This makes it difficult for the airways to open, even with the use of an inhaler. To prevent remodeling, we encourage patients to adhere to their prescribed treatment.
Higher risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
GERD happens when the acidic stomach contents flow backward into the esophagus due to a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This band of muscle usually closes tightly to prevent stomach acid from flowing into the esophagus. GERD may exacerbate asthma symptoms and reduce the effectiveness of asthma therapy.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
OSA causes brief pauses in breathing during sleep. This can happen many times throughout the night. Asthma is connected with an elevated risk for OSA. In addition, OSA can exacerbate asthma symptoms due to its link with airway constriction, gastric reflux, and inflammation. If you have asthma, look out for OSA symptoms such as loud snoring, gasping for air, morning headaches, and daytime sleepiness, and report them to your doctor.
Asthma is a chronic illness that requires long-term management. While it can be controlled, it doesn’t go away. If you feel that your asthma symptoms are poorly controlled or interfering with your life, discuss it with Dr. Ziegner.
Patients with asthma must prioritize their health and team up with a health care provider to best manage their asthma and reduce its impact on their daily lives.
To discuss asthma management, call our Redondo Beach, California, office to schedule a visit with Dr. Ziegner, or send her a message on our website.