Health Chats
Asthma: Diagnosis and Treatments
Friday Aug 26, 2011, 01:00PM - 02:00PM (EST)
Cleveland Clinic
Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Cleveland, OH
Asthma is a common chronic disease that affects the airways of the lungs and ultimately results in the inflammation of the air passages, making it very difficult to breath. It affects about 5 to 10 percent of children in the United States and is the most common chronic condition of childhood. Asthma symptoms can begin at any age from infancy through adulthood and although the rate of prevalence is increasing, the death rate from asthma is on the decline.<br><br> A person with asthma has very sensitive airways that react to a variety of external factors, or "triggers." These triggers cause the airways to tighten and become inflamed and blocked with mucus, resulting in difficulty breathing. An acute asthma attack can begin immediately after exposure to a trigger or several hours or days later. Some people are affected by numerous triggers; others may not be able to identify any. Recognizing and avoiding triggers, when possible, is an important way to control asthma. While it can be controlled, asthma cannot be cured. It is not normal to have frequent symptoms, trouble sleeping, or trouble completing tasks. Appropriate asthma care will prevent symptoms and visits to the emergency room and hospital. However, asthma can also be life threatening, especially when serious cases are not effectively managed by use of an inhaler or medication. <br><br> Take this opportunity to learn more about asthma, including diagnosis and treatment for severe asthma, and have your questions answered by Dr. Sumita Khatri from Cleveland Clinic.
I have asthma and I want to know how to lose weight to help myself.  I'm always having to be put on steroids, and wonder if this is the reason I am not losing any weight?  Thank you in advance!
Sumita Khatri, MD:
Yes-steroids can add to weight gain. If you are able to get treated with inhaled steroids, the chance of gaining weight is less.
Sumita Khatri, MD:
Feeling better enough from your asthma standpoint to start a exercise program is key. As you exercise, you'll feel better, lose weight, and then breathe better as well.
Sumita Khatri, MD:
When you see your doctor, tell her/him your goals of care. That way she/he will tailor your asthma regimen to get you to your goal of losing weight. Sometimes, we forget to ask you what you want.
I have emphysema. I get meds for emphysema and asthma. How do I know if I really have asthma? Shortness of breath comes also with emphysema. As far as I know- and I am 79 years old- I never had asthma.
Sumita Khatri, MD:
Emphysema can have a asthma-component especially if triggers make it worse. It is a judgement call of your specialist to find the right regimen for you. You can frankly ask her/him to explain the rationale. That is your right!
So do you suggest I go in another direction at this point or is this the best I can do with these medications?
Sumita Khatri, MD:
I suggest you review each medication and how you're using it, and come up with a game plan with your physician. If after a thorough effort of getting this under control, you are not better, look for other and additional causes.
Unfortunately, we only have time for one more question.
I use my quick rescue inhaler quite often during a week.  Sometimes daily.  I feel like I have congestion but my cough is unproductive and dry.  Sometimes I feel out of breath especially while walking at a good cadence.  Should I be seeing an allergist or asthma doctor?  I take daily doses of Allegra, Singulair and Symbicort and use Albuterol when needed.  I also get migraines now and then.  
Sumita Khatri, MD:
Your asthma is clearly not well controlled, and there is room for improvement so that you are not limited. I highly recommend you see an pulmonary/allergy/asthma specialist. You will hopefully find that your breathing will get better soon. Most asthma is easy to control, when managed as a partnership between you and your caregiver.
Thank You Dr. Khatri for answering all our questions today.  For members interested in scheduling an appointment with Dr. Khatri or another specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Respiratory Institute, please call 1-800-223-2273 Ext. 40582
If you did not receive an answer to your question today, Dr. Khatri will be answering the remaining questions over the next ten days.
Sumita Khatri, MD:
This was truly a pleasure for me--thanks for all your great questions, and please don't be shy. Be your own advocate and ask questions during your doctor visits!