Asthma is a condition that includes irritation of the airways that carry air into and out of the lungs – making it difficult to breathe. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness—which can all be controlled with long-term medications.
Washington state has one of the highest rates of asthma in the country, and the rate has been steadily rising.
Asthma has no cure. Even when you feel fine, you still have the disease and it can flare up at any time. But, with today's knowledge and medical treatments, most people who have asthma are able to manage the disease. It is possible to have few, if any, symptoms and to live a normal, active life.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a group of diseases that make it difficult to breathe. It includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and, in some cases, asthma. Symptoms include breathlessness, chronic coughing and wheezing. COPD is a progressive disease (“progressive” meaning it typically gets worse over time) that typically affects current or former smokers in their 40s or older.
There is no cure for COPD but treatments and lifestyle changes can help you feel better, stay more active and slow the progress of the disease.
Having a chronic condition like asthma or COPD can be very challenging, but with the help of a health care team and other resources in the community, you’ll have the support you need to stay as healthy as you can.
What can patients do to help manage asthma and COPD?
You can learn the basics about both asthma and COPD, including what your triggers are for an asthma attack, how you can avoid one and what to do when you have an attack.
COPD is often preventable and treatable. Patients with asthma and COPD need to take an active role in their health and health care. That means getting informed and working with your health care team to make treatment decisions and lifestyle changes, such as quitting tobacco use, that can help you manage your condition.
You can use the Community Checkup website to see which providers score well in caring for people with asthma or COPD.
What should your doctor do?
- Use office-based spirometry in the diagnosis of asthma and COPD. Spirometry is a simple, noninvasive breathing test that measures the amount of air and speed with which a person can blow out of his or her lungs.
- Carefully manage the medications you are taking to provide you with the greatest relief and long term control.
- Incorporate patient education into each asthma and COPD care visit.
- Work with patients to develop a written action plan to help control symptoms, manage problems and know what to do in an emergency.
- Offer group education sessions about asthma and COPD with health educators.