Classes & Events News Get

Advancements in Asthma Care

May 3, 2024

Man using an inhaler while outdoors

You probably know somebody who has asthma. You may even have it yourself. After all, asthma affects more than 25 million people in the United States, and it’s the number one chronic disease among children.

There’s no cure for asthma, but there are new advancements in asthma care that can help you manage the condition to the point of remission (meaning your asthma is under control and you no longer have symptoms or episodes).

John Oppenheimer, MD, an allergy and immunology doctor with Atlantic Health System and the director of clinical research at AMG Pulmonology, Sleep, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, shares the newest approach to asthma care and management.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects breathing. If you have asthma, your airways become inflamed, swollen and narrowed, making it difficult to breathe. An asthma attack can be minor or severe, even life-threatening if not treated.

Symptoms and Triggers of Asthma

Everybody is different, but there are some symptoms shared by most people with asthma. Common signs of asthma include the following:

  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

What triggers an asthma episode or attack varies based on what you are sensitive to. Common triggers may include infections, pollen, pollution, animal allergens, cold air, smoke and exercise.

How is Asthma Diagnosed?

If you think you or your child may have asthma, see your doctor to discuss your symptoms. After a physical exam, your doctor will test your lung function.

“We suspect asthma based on symptoms and use spirometry tests to confirm the diagnosis of obstructed lung function,” explains Dr. Oppenheimer.

Treatment Options for Asthma

Partnering with a doctor is key to managing your asthma. Depending on the severity of your asthma, you’ll need either reliever therapy or controller therapy.

Reliever therapies

Basic asthma treatment involves using an inhaler to open your airways.

“We call these inhalers reliever therapies,” says Dr. Oppenheimer. “Bronchodilators like albuterol (which is the medicine inside an inhaler) provide symptom relief, but don’t fix the inflammation, which is causing asthma. That’s where controller therapies come into play.”

Controller therapies

Controller therapies are advanced treatment options that work to address the inflammation in your airways. Which controller therapy is right for you depends on the severity of your asthma and the phenotype, or type of inflammation.

“Understanding that there are different types of underlying inflammation and that each has its own response to therapy is revolutionary in our understanding regarding how to individualize treatment for best outcomes,” Dr. Oppenheimer says. “With this information, we can now optimize treatment and provide patient-specific care to obtain total control or remission of your asthma.”

There are three levels of controller therapies used depending on the asthma severity, phenotype, and other conditions (or comorbidities) that may contribute to or worsen symptoms. They include:

  • Montelukast: An oral drug often used in combination with an inhaler.
  • Inhaled steroids: Beta agonists provide long-term control of asthma.
  • Biologic drugs: Injectable medicine that precisely targets and blocks specific molecules that trigger inflammation.

“Our goal is to reach remission therapy,” says Dr. Oppenheimer. “Once we confirm the asthma diagnosis with lung function testing and determine the phenotype, we can customize care to manage the inflammation and prevent asthmatic episodes long term.”

But Dr. Oppenheimer is quick to point out that remission therapy is only possible with treatment adherence by the patient (meaning, taking the medication and taking it properly) and comprehensive care that also addresses other health conditions that influence asthma and worsen symptoms.

“Atlantic Health System’s center of excellence allows us to work in tandem with other specialists to manage comorbidities such as sleep apnea, sinus disease, reflux and uncontrolled allergies, all of which can exacerbate asthma and, if left untreated, negatively impact asthma therapies,” says Dr. Oppenheimer. “We are so much better at caring for people with asthma than we were even just ten years ago.”

Key Takeaways

Asthma shouldn’t keep you on the sidelines. With today’s advanced therapies, remission is possible. By partnering with an asthma specialist to customize treatment based on your specific asthma type and other health conditions, you can control your asthma and thrive.

Be Proactive About Your Health

To stay safe and healthy, it's good to have a primary care provider who knows and understands your health history and wellness goals.

  • News & Innovation