If you have asthma, you may be wondering if it has long-term affects on your lungs.
Asthma inflammation can be accompanied with changes in the airway wall, known as airway remodelling. These alterations are more noticeable in poorly controlled asthma.
However, lung damage from asthma can be avoided if therapy is initiated early and symptoms are adequately managed.
The Long-Term Consequences of Asthma
According to a reliable source, airway remodelling may result in a reduction of lung function over time. It may also impair the effectiveness of your asthma medicine.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can potentially be caused by airway remodelling (COPD). COPD does not arise from uncontrolled asthma, although it is easier to develop if you have airway remodelling from uncontrolled asthma.
Asthma-COPD overlap syndrome refers to those who have both asthma and COPD (ACOS). Because the symptoms of ACOS might be similar to those of asthma or COPD, it is possible to misdiagnose it.
However, it is critical to recognise ACOS if you have it. Asthma and COPD are treated differently.
Other potential impacts of asthma include:
- chronic sleep deprivation from nighttime symptoms
- health effects from reduced physical activity
- growth delay and learning disabilities in children
- missed work for adults
- coughing spells
- respiratory failure
Controlling your asthma symptoms can help to decrease airway remodelling, lower your risk of COPD and ACOS, and protect your lungs.
While it may appear that asthma has taken control of you at times, you do have some control over your illness. Here are five things you can do to keep your lungs healthy.
1. Stay away from environmental stressors
Asthma triggers that induce attacks may be present in the air you breathe. The same causes do not impact everyone with asthma.
You may be able to lessen the amount of asthma flares you experience if you can foresee and avoid encounters with your triggers.
Common asthma triggers include:
- tobacco smoke
- dust mites
- pet fur
- household disinfectants
- indoor and outdoor pollution
The American Lung Association (ALA) compares ozone-induced lung inflammation to a severe sunburn in your lungs.
They advise reviewing the air quality forecast for your region before engaging in outdoor labour or exercise. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website, Airnow.gov, allows you to check the air quality in your location.
According to the American Lung Association’s 2021 State of the Air Report, 11.5 million individuals with asthma reside in areas with unsafe levels of at least one pollutant. Consider using indoor exercise as part of your asthma management strategy on days when the air quality is bad.
Smoking, in addition to being an asthma trigger, is a risk factor for COPD. If you smoke and are able to quit, you will minimise your chances of acquiring ACOS. The American Lung Association provides numerous smoking cessation aids that may be useful.
2. Take your meds as prescribed
According to a survey done in 2011 and 2012, just 8.3 percent of patients fully adhered to their asthma treatments. The word “adherence” refers to taking medicine as prescribed by a healthcare expert and not missing a dosage for an extended period of time.
The issue of noncompliance remains, and a 2019 review is planned.
Some of the reasons why, as outlined by Trusted Source, are as follows:
- drug regimen complexity
- fear of side effects
- inhaler technique
- misunderstood instructions
- denial about health condition
- inappropriate expectations
- dissatisfaction with healthcare professional
- cultural or religious reasons
The medication your healthcare professional prescribes to you is based on the latest research and is an important part of your asthma treatment plan.
According to the same research, higher medication adherence results in:
- positive health outcomes
- improvements in disease control
- reduced mortality
You can improve your medication adherence with some simple strategies:
- Ask your doctor for directions again to ensure you remember them correctly.
- Ask for help with your inhaler technique to make sure it’s effective.
- Use a reminder tool like an app or symbol on a calendar.
It’s critical to be open and honest with your doctor about your treatment adherence. If they are unaware that you have not been taking your medicine, they may prescribe more medications that are unneeded.
3. Keep respiratory infections at bay
Respiratory infections can set off asthma episodes and exacerbate symptoms. Keeping infections at bay protects your lungs.
The ALA recommends the following precautions to avoid infection:
- Get a flu vaccine.
- Stay away from crowded places during flu season.
- Wash your hands often.
- Brush your teeth at least twice per day.
- Avoid touching your face.
Start self-care at the first sign of symptoms. Sometimes the signs of an infection can mimic those of asthma, such as cough. However, asthma doesn’t cause:
- sore throat
- muscle aches
Knowing how to tell the difference between asthma symptoms and infection symptoms will help you decide whether to stay at home, drink extra fluids, and get enough rest.
Some people have asthma symptoms when they exercise, therefore they avoid physical activity to avoid asthma triggers. However, they are passing up a golden opportunity to enhance their lung health.
According to the ALA, daily exercise offers various advantages. These are some examples:
- increased lung capacity
- improved blood flow
- decreased airway inflammation
- higher endurance and stamina
- immune system support
If you experience exercise-induced asthma episodes, your doctor can assist you in determining the cause. It might, for example, be a simple fitness issue. A medication change may assist if your asthma isn’t being treated as well as it may be.
For persons with asthma, the American Lung Association suggests the following exercise strategies:
- Include a warmup first and cool down afterward.
- Cover your mouth and nose when exercising outside in cold weather.
- Check the air quality before you exercise outdoors and, if necessary, choose an indoor activity instead.
- Stop immediately if you experience chest discomfort such as pain, coughing, or shortness of breath. Use your inhaler and sit and relax.
If you have a medical issue, such as asthma, it is best to consult with your doctor before beginning a new form of exercise.
5. Make dietary adjustments
The effect of nutrition on inflammation may have an impact on the health of your lungs.
A research published in 2020Trusted Source examined 12,687 Hispanic/Latino people aged 18 to 74 and discovered that a pro-inflammatory diet raised the risk of asthma, but an anti-inflammatory diet may have a good effect on lung function.
Inflammation isn’t the sole factor influencing the effect of food on lung function. Carbohydrates use more oxygen and produce more carbon dioxide, causing your lungs to work harder. This implies that lowering your carbohydrate intake and substituting it with healthy fats may help you breathe easier.
The ALA recommends the following dietary changes:
- D-calcium phosphate Vitamin D strengthens the immune system and decreases airway inflammation, and low levels have been related to an increased risk of asthma episodes in both children and adults.
- The antioxidant vitamin E. Tocopherol, found in vitamin E, may help decrease breathing and coughing.
The following foods should be avoided:
- Items that cause gas, such as beans, fried meals, and carbonated beverages, might make breathing more difficult.
- Sulfites, which are typically present in dried fruits, might aggravate asthma symptoms.
- Salicylates, found in coffee, tea, herbs, and spices, might irritate certain asthmatics.
A nutritionist who specialises in asthma can help you construct a diet plan geared for long-term lung health if you have access to one. A healthcare professional might also be of assistance.
The main point
Uncontrolled asthma can cause long-term lung abnormalities and raise your risk of getting COPD and ACOS.
However, you do have some say in the matter. Changes in diet and exercise, adherence to medications, and protection from pollution and infection can all help keep your lungs healthy.