Optimising Asthma Control

If not well controlled, asthma can severely impact the quality of life of your patients. Dr Joe Kosterich explores the prevalence of asthma in Australia and discusses the importance of educating patients and working together to devise effective management plans.

  Asthma is a common condition, which affects an estimated one in nine (around 2.5million) Australians. It is a long term condition of the lungs in which the airways are sensitive. In reaction to triggers, the muscles in the airways tighten, the airways swell and excess mucous is produced, making it much harder to breathe. Typical symptoms include shortness of breath, a tight feeling in the chest, a cough and the hallmark symptom of wheezing.

  So, let’s look at the key elements of getting asthma well controlled. It starts with the patient taking the condition seriously, even if they are symptom free. This means being aware of what can trigger their asthma, and where practical and possible, how to avoid them. Now of course it is not possible to absolutely avoid pollens during spring or viruses in winter, but avoidance of smoking and triggering behaviours such as mowing the lawns is advisable.

The ultimate marker of good control is a symptom-free life where one is not restricted. That is the aim and there is generally no reason why it cannot be attained.

  The next important step is getting them an asthma action plan. In an ideal world this would be written down but in the real world, if patients are well informed by their GP and know what to do, that is what matters most. A key part of this is patients knowing their own body and what symptoms to watch for. In tandem with this are objective assessments; a simple peak flow device can be used at home and GPs can do spirometer testing.

  Getting the right combination of medications is vital. An often overlooked point is use of inhalers. Patients not using an inhaler correctly are not likely to be inhaling the correct dose of the medication – a completely preventable situation. The correct technique is not difficult to master and can be easily demonstrated by the GP, practice nurse or asthma educator!

 Patients need to know what to do if symptoms worsen - this goes back to having a plan. It may include increasing doses of inhalers or adding a new inhaler. It might include seeing their GP.

 If asthma is not well controlled it can severely impact quality of life and can, in some instances prove fatal. It is critical we talk to patients about their symptoms, and manage the treatment plans to ensure optimal improvement. There is, as we know, a range of medications that can be used and in differing combinations.

 Naturally some people have fewer problems keeping their asthma controlled than others. If asthma as been harder to control, it is essential that we review how it is being managed.

  The ultimate marker of good control is symptom free life where one is not restricted. That is the aim and there is generally no reason why it cannot be attained.

Jow KosterichDr Joe Kosterich MBBS
Doctor, speaker, author of three books, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.He is a regular on Channel 9 and radio, writes for various medical and mainstream publications, as well as maintaining a website and blog providing health information. He is the health ambassador for locally grown fresh potatoes. Dr Joe also gives practical motivational health talks for the general public and organizations.