When it comes to understanding all of the new asthma treatments available, it's natural to feel a little confused.
The important thing to remember is that asthma is a "variable" disease. In other words, the symptoms can vary from person to person, and even the same person's condition may fluctuate throughout the year.
If you have asthma, your doctor will:
- Explain how you can keep your asthma under control by avoiding your personal triggers
- Prescribe medication that will help minimize your symptoms
- Work with you so you have a written action plan
- Recommend that you visit on a regular basis so that your symptoms can be monitored and your treatments adjusted if necessary
In order to minimize possible side effects, your doctor will prescribe the lowest dose of medication needed to control your symptoms. It may take some experimenting to find out what that dose is. You and your doctor might have to try a few different doses or a few different medications before you find what works best for you. Over time, your medication needs may change.
Most people with asthma take two kinds of medication. That's because each asthma medication treats only one aspect of the condition:
- Controllers, also called "preventers," reduce inflammation in the airways. Controllers should be taken every day. You will know that the controller medication is working because you will, over time, have fewer and fewer symptoms. When your asthma is totally controlled and you have no symptoms, do not stop taking them. If you do, the airway inflammation may return.
- Relievers are very good at helping to alleviate symptoms immediately. If you are coughing or wheezing, use a reliever medication to reduce symptoms. However, reliever medications do nothing for the underlying problem of inflammation. Relievers are only a short-term solution to breathing problems and indicate that there is underlying inflammation present that requires a controller medication. Monitor how often you use your reliever. Increased use over time is telling you the asthma is worsening.