A therapy for severe asthmatics

Narsimhan R | Updated on April 29, 2021

Causes of asthma include respiratory infections, smoke from tobacco, severe physical or emotional stress and environmental triggers.

Asthma, one of the most widespread diseases, continues to be on the rise due to poor lifestyle, increasing pollution and unhealthy dietary habits. World Health Organisation data show that 15-20 million people across age groups suffer from asthma in India. Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease, which means it doesn’t completely go away once a person develops it.

When a person has asthma, he/she faces difficulty in breathing as the bronchi or tubes carrying air to the lungs swell up.

This happens due to the mucus inside the bronchi coming into contact with an allergen. Alarmingly, around 1.6 lakh patients suffer from drug-resisting asthma, also described as ‘severe asthma’.

Some of the prominent causes of severe asthma include respiratory infections, smoke from tobacco, severe physical or emotional stress and environmental triggers. Therefore, severe asthmatics experience recurrent attacks and require frequent hospital visits.

The treatment of asthma mainly includes identifying the triggers of the patients, recognising and managing their symptoms, and laying an action plan that can control a flare-up. Medications such as beta-agonists and combination inhalers are used to control inconsistent response of an allergen and reduce severe exacerbations, giving patients a better quality of life.

If one has an asthma flare-up, a quick-relief inhaler can come to the rescue by easing the symptoms instantly. For patients who do not respond to these medications or inhalers, advanced treatments such as Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT) can help reduce asthmatic attacks.

It is a minimally invasive procedure that can only be carried on patients who are already on oral steroids for asthma exacerbations.

The therapy includes a process in which a thin catheter is pushed to the end of the airway that gives controlled radio-frequency energy. This is designed to reduce the amount of airway muscle while broadening the airways. Thus, BT makes it easy for the person to breathe, thereby reducing asthma attacks.

The therapy aids in controlling the severity of the disease while bringing down the patient’s dependence on medication.

The writer is pulmonologist,  Apollo Hospital, Chennai

Published on April 28, 2021

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