What is asthma? | What causes asthma? | Factors that triggerthe symptoms of asthma | How to prevent asthma | For optimal quality of life… | How can you tell if your asthma is being managed properly? | The Info-Asthma program | Take the test...
Asthma is the country's leading respiratory disease. In Canada, 2.4 million people have asthma. In Quebec, it is estimated that 700 000 people struggle with this illness, among them 300 000 children.
Each year, in Quebec, asthma is responsible for 760 000 medical visits, 100 000 emergency room visits, 56 000 hospitalisation days, 325 000 lost work days, 4 000 calls for ambulance services and 150 deaths. Asthma costs $150 million per year.
It’s a chronic respiratory disease characterized by inflammation and partial reversible obstruction of the bronchial airways, and affecting a large number of children and adults. Because of their hypersensitivity, the airways react by contracting and clogging up when irritated, which makes breathing difficult.
The obstruction is caused by three mechanisms:
- inflammation of the bronchial wall
- contraction of the muscle fibres surrounding the bronchi (bronchoconstriction)
- production of excessive mucus (thick secretions) that clogs the bronchial tubes.
This bronchial obstruction can produce the following symptom(s):
- shortness of breath
- tightness of the chest
A severe asthma attack can be a terrifying experience producing a feeling of suffocation, breathlessness and loss of control. Poorly treated or underestimated asthma can place a person’s life at risk.
The precise causes of asthma are not well known, but they appear to be the result of a complex interaction between several factors: genetic (family predisposition) and environmental.
- sudden temperature changes (cold and damp air)
- cigarette smoke (also an inflammatory factor)
- strong odours
- air pollution
- irritant products at work (occupational asthma)
- colds and viral respiratory infections
The irritants produce a contraction of the air- ways(bronchoconstriction).
The symptoms of the bronchoconstriction caused by the irritants are usually immediate, brief and reversible with the help of rescue medication (bronchodilators).
The symptoms caused by inflammatory factors often appear later. They may produce or exacerbate the symptoms of asthma for several weeks, or even months, and are not so easily reversible.
- Gastroesophageal reflux (stomach acid reflux)
- Aspirin intolerance
- Hormonal changes (beginning of menstrual period, pregnancy)
- Allergic rhinitis
- Emotional disorders
- Physical exercise
There is no cure for asthma, but proper medication can help control and manage ashtma. The treatment for managing the symptoms of the disease include anti-inflammatories designed to reduce and prevent bronchial inflammation, and bronchodilators that relieve occasional or immediate symptoms.
Asthma specialists agree that the best way to treat individuals is to actively involve them in the therapy. Despite the fact that drugs are very effective in treating asthma, successful treatment depends largely on proper understanding of the disease, environmental control and avoiding ashtma triggers.
Over 60% of asthmatics lack sufficient ability to manage their disease, which translates into daily symptoms, increased medication, emergency room visits with frequent hospital stays, absenteeism from work and school.
A better understanding of the disease and adequate treatment could prevent more than 80% of deaths, while reducing the number of emergency room visits by almost 50%, and the number of hospital stays by up to 80%.
Asthmatics should be able to lead a normal life with as few symptoms as possible. To achieve this, they must:
- obtain an early and precise diagnosis
- recognize the symptoms of asthma and fully understand them
- control their environment and avoid the triggering factors
- use their medication effectively to prevent asthma
- with the help of their doctor, establish an action plan based on the pattern of symptoms
Asthma is considered to be properly managed when the following criteria are met:
- presence of daytime symptoms less than 4 days a week;
- presence of night time symptoms less than once a week;
- normal physical activity;
- no absenteeism due to asthma;
- need less than four doses of the rescue bronchodilator per week (excluding a dose taken preventively, prior to physical effort or exposure to cold);
- the peak flow measure (expired volume in 1 second) should be 85% to 90% of the normal value and remain stable.
The Info-Asthma program is based on asthma management and control. It is designed to inform asthma sufferers, and encourage them to gain a better understanding of their illness so that they can manage it more effectively. It is possible to live with practically symptom-free asthma, by adopting new attitudes.
This program offers free telephone assistance provided by asthma health professionals.
You will have access to comprehensive literature including:
||An asthma guide|
The Asthma logbook - PEF
Asthma action plan
||Web site:||www.pq.lung.ca from which you can download documents and view the various services available to the public.|
If you don’t have the Info-Asthma Guide, contact our INFO-ASTHMA Helpline to obtain a copy.
|Take the test…|
|assess your asthma in just|
|a few seconds|
|1.||I have daytime symptoms more than 3 times a week.|
|2.||I have night time symptoms more than once a week.|
|3.||I cannot engage in normal physical activities.|
|4.||I miss school or work because of my asthma.|
|5.||I take more than 4 doses of my rescue medication per week (excluding one dose which can be taken preventively, prior to physical effort).|
|6.||I often have asthma attacks(exacerbations).|
If you checkmarked any one of these statements, your asthma may not be properly managed. Act now! Contact the Info-Asthma program health professionals at 1 800 295-8111 ext. 232, Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The services available from the Lung Association are provided by respiratory health professionals. If you are faced with problems linked to COPD (chronic bronchitis – emphysema), asthma or any other respiratory disease, or if you simply require information about the various smoking cessation assistance programs that are available, feel free to call using our toll-free helplines.
Your generous contributions to our fund-raising campaigns perpetuate these services. Bequests, commemorative gifts and planned giving are also practical ways of supporting the Lung Association.