It may be the most misunderstood disease in America, and as quiet as it’s kept, it’s almost become a bad word for many sufferers.
Asthma is the second most commonly-occurring disease in the U.S. Heart disease is No. 1, but asthma strikes twice as often as cancer and diabetes.
“No one wants to own up to having it. They think they can’t get insurance coverage or will be kicked off the track team, so they just ignore their symptoms,” Eghrari-Sabet said.
And she said it isn’t just patients who are sticking their heads into the sand. Doctors are also loathe to use the “A” word and tend, instead, to classify their patients’ symptoms as “wheezy bronchitis, reactive airways disease, or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction," according to Dr. Eghrari-Sabet.
Meanwhile, with sufferers in denial, the disease rages on and patients aren’t getting the treatment they need to get it under control. In fact, more than half the people with asthma are considered “out-of-control,” according to Eghrari-Sabet. Yet, she said, if you ask them how they’re doing, they’re likely to say "just fine."
Eghrari-Sabet’s advice is simple: Just look at your DNA, your daytime symptoms, your nighttime symptoms and your use of albuterol. Are you coughing, wheezing and short of breath with even mild exertion more than twice a week? Do asthma symptoms wake you up at night more than twice a month? Do you use your albuterol inhaler more than twice a week? Are you inhaling more than one canister per year? If your answers are “yes,” you are out of control and need to get to your doctor.
“You cannot rely on the rescue medication. If you do, it will stop working, and you could die,” Eghrari-Sabet said.
Here are more asthma facts from the Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America:
- It’s the most common chronic condition in children
- It’s more common in boys than girls, but more common in adult women than men
- It’s more prevalent among African Americans
- It accounts for one-quarter of all yearly ER visits
- Each day, it kills 11 Americans