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Facts About Asthma

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Asthma is a chronic disease characterized by repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. These asthma attacks are caused by lung inflammation and a sudden narrowing of the lungs' small airways in response to asthma triggers. Every year, more than half of the estimated 22 million Americans diagnosed with asthma suffer at least one acute attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These flare-ups — always unpleasant, often frightening, sometimes life-threatening — lead to approximately 2 million emergency room visits, 10 million outpatient visits, and 100 million days of restricted activity every year. The direct medical costs for acute asthma care, the lost days of school and work, and the greatly reduced quality of life all contribute to the growing burden of uncontrolled asthma in the United States.

The asthma burden in Pennsylvania is especially acute in children and other special populations, such as African-Americans, females, persons with low income and persons with limited education.

In the Pittsburgh region, asthma is diagnosed at about the same rate as the national average. In 2002, there were 21,284 hospitalizations for asthma in the Commonwealth, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. Asthma hospitalizations in the state led to more than $283.6 million in charges for 2002, with an average charge of more than $13,000 per case.

Many of these asthma attacks could easily be prevented. Although the underlying disease itself still cannot be cured, both the frequency and the severity of the periodic outbreaks of wheezing and other asthma symptoms could be reduced. The keys to becoming symptom-free with asthma are taking the proper medications and avoiding asthma “triggers.”

More specifically, improved asthma control involves taking anti-inflammatory and bronchodilating medications according to a doctor’s plan, and avoiding contact with environmental triggers such as cockroaches, dust mites, furry pets, mold, tobacco smoke, outdoor pollution, and certain chemicals. Moreover, periodic lung function testing will make sure your child is on the right amount of medication for his or her asthma.

We know these basic asthma control methods work because national and international groups of asthma experts have recommended them in treatment guidelines that are based on exhaustive reviews of evidence found in hundreds of large clinical studies.

Last Update
September 25, 2014
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Last Update
September 25, 2014