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Every year over 20 million Americans suffer from Asthma, a respiratory disease that inflames the air passages connecting the lung, nose, and mouth. Asthma symptoms can be caused by allergens or irritants that are inhaled into the lungs, which results in inflamed and constricted airways. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing tightness in the chest. In severe cases, asthma can even be deadly, as there are more than 4,000 deaths happen per year due to asthma. This disease is more common in children, but shows no discrimination in age, race, or sex. Due to its lower mortality rate then other diseases, it tends to be over looked. Yet every year, asthma affects twice as many people than diabetes, and five times as many people with cancer. A brief education of the disease can not only help improve awareness in our society, but it can one day save somebody’s life.
Commonly diagnosed at an early age, Asthma can hinder a full development by a child. It is thought to be a mixture of genetic and environmental factors. One in three Americans with a parent that has asthma also have the disease, but many indoor allergens such as dust mites can be a main contributor as well. The disease can be classified in multiple categories including Asthma, Brittle Asthma, Exercise Induced, and Occupational. Regular Asthma has different level of severities and is diagnosed by the chronic symptoms of inflamed airways, chest tightness, and breathlessness. Brittle Asthma is distinguished by sever attacks that are recurrent. This type of asthma is usually seen in people who have “Asthma Attacks”. Linked with low levels of Vitamin D, Astham attacks are an intensification of the normal symptoms as well a change in skin color due to lack of oxygen. This also can be caused sometimes when athletes with Exercise Induced asthma over exert themselves, or mismanage their asthma. Occupational Asthma is diagnosed when specific and clear links to workplace conditions create asthma. The American Thoracic Society suggests that 15-23% of new asthma cases are directly job-related. The most common jobs that cause this are ones that deal with animal proteins and enzymes, rubber products, and high levels of indoor allergens.
Asthma has no known cure, but it can be properly managed and treated so that one can lead a normal life while suffering from the disease. Because each case of asthma is different, treatment needs to be tailored for each person. One general rule that does apply, though, is removing the things in the patient’s environment that they know are factors that make their asthma worse. When these measures are not enough, it is usually time to try one of the many medications that are available to control symptoms. Most Asthma medications are divided into two types, one being quick relief and the other long term control. Like all medicines, these treatments do have minor side effects, but Asthma medications are known for their mild and self-treating side effects. Quick-relief medicines are used to control the immediate symptoms of an asthma episode. Likewise, long-term control medicines do not provide relief right away, but rather help to lessen the frequency and severity of episodes over time. The most effective asthma medications contain either corticosteroids or beta antagonists. Both of these agents are effective in an anti-inflammatory purpose. Typically all medications are either inhaled or taken in pill form, but the public’s most common image would be that of one using an inhaler. There is no form of physical therapy or any related form of treatment, medication is the only current way to fight asthma. Once the disease is present, it is there for good.
The National Health Interview Survey and Centers for Disease Control have teamed together over the past few years to analyze and interpret the data they collected on the effect of Asthma in the United States. Annual costs of the disease are estimated at over 18 billion dollars including hospital visits, medications, and loss of wages. Asthma is the fourth leading cause of missed workdays and school days. Accounting for one-quarter of all emergency room visits, Asthma is the third-ranked cause of hospitalization for children. With stays lasting an average of 3 days, it is clear to see how the economic impact of the disease adds up. The rate of asthma in our country is growing every year due to the genetics of people having children with asthma. Many people believe that our struggling environment has something to do the rise as well, but global warming and ozone depletion rarely have any impact on indoor allergens. Without a cure it is a disease that will continuously cost money for research and treatment. While there are many other diseases that need financial and educational support, Asthma is a guaranteed growing cost every year.
Asthma is a disease that impacts my life every day as I was diagnosed with Exercise Induced Asthma at a young age. A daily inhaler has become the staple of my daily routine, and it is always something I think about in the back of my head during football. I’m sure my life would be much easier without the constant monitoring of it, and the overall risk I take in playing a game I love. I could only hope that young kids who love to play sports aren’t hindered by a disease that never goes away. The shortness of breath and harsh wheezing are enough to take out the wind in anyone’s sail, let alone a child. Some of the numbers are shocking, but as a country it is a problem that we need to take note of. Our doctors have a firm grasp on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease, but it is time to take that next step. It is time for us to get to that cure or prevention technique so we can rid ourselves of the constant worry and agony, and resume our normal lives.
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