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What do you need to know before you choose an asthma treatment? Nearly 25 million people in the United States have asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). If you're one of the millions of adults with asthma, take a look at the top diagnosis and treatment questions answered.
Do You Need A Diagnosis Before Treatment?
Yes, you should have an asthma diagnosis before you choose or begin any type of treatment. Even though asthma is a common condition, it isn't a self-diagnosable disease. This means you will need to visit your doctor or other licensed medical professional (such as a nurse practitioner) for a physical exam, health history, symptom history, and diagnostic testing.
Your medical provider will discuss your symptoms and may recommend a lung function test. A spirometry test can help to determine the narrowing of the bronchial tubes and a peak flow meter test can measure how well your lungs work—based on how much air flows out of your lungs. You may also need a chest x-ray, allergy tests, or a nitric oxide test, depending on your symptoms. The combination of an exam, health history, and testing can help the medical provider to rule out other potential conditions and diagnose asthma.
Are There Different Types of Asthma?
Yes, there are different types of asthma. Instead of one broad diagnosis and course of treatment, your medical provider will classify your symptoms and create a treatment plan that meets your individual needs. The primary classifications include intermittent asthma (mild symptoms that occur less than two days per week and less than two nights per month), mild persistent (symptoms that occur more than twice per week but not daily), moderate persistent (symptoms occur daily), and severe persistent (symptoms occur throughout the day).
Can You Treat Asthma?
Yes, asthma is a treatable condition. But it is not curable. Treatments make it possible to live a healthy, active lifestyle. With the right treatment, your asthma may not interfere with your ability to work, go to school, socialize, spend time with your family, exercise, or do just about anything else.
Treatment may include several steps, starting with trigger recognition. Triggers can cause a flare-up and may include exercise, respiratory infections, allergens (such as pollen or pet dander), some types of weather conditions, strong emotions, fragrances, and chemicals. Trigger recognition and avoidance can help to prevent an attack before it starts.
Along with preventative steps, your medical provider may also prescribe medication. Bronchodilator quick-relief inhalers and oral medications can open airways after an attack starts. These include rescue medications such as short-acting beta-agonists, anticholinergic agents, and some corticosteroids. Long-term or daily medications used to prevent or treat asthma symptoms included inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, theophylline, and combination inhalers.