Saturday, February 17, 2007

Asthma - Not a disease, a collection of symptoms

Just found this article on NewsTarget, which seems to be an aggregator of highly biased, self-serving news with a decidedly non-medical bent. But this one may have some merit. Here's a pretty comprehensive excerpt:

(NewsTarget) The medical journal The Lancet is appealing to the medical
community to stop using the term "asthma" as it misleads people to believe it is
a disease rather than a group of symptoms with various origins and

Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing and breathing difficulties,
and it is generally accepted that attacks are brought on by inflamed airways,
but the actual spark for the inflammation is not known, nor is the reason why
some people contract asthma while others do not.

"Perhaps asthma as
a symptom is really only the clinical manifestation of several distinct
diseases," said The
article. "Rather than confusing scientists, doctors and patients even
further, is it not time to step out of the straight jacket of a seemingly
unifying name that has outlived its usefulness?"

The article went on to explain that asthma can have a multitude of
triggers, symptoms and treatments, providing more evidence that it is
inappropriate to label it as a single disease.
"The Lancet article raises
some interesting points; asthma is indeed a complex ailment," said Dr. Andrew
Miller, a spokesman for the British Lung Foundation. "But whether this is a good
enough reason to abandon a useful name which encompasses a range of symptoms
treated in a similar way is not yet clear."

...Currently, experts claim that approximately 300 million people have
asthma worldwide -- a number expected to reach 400 million by 2025. One in 250
deaths is caused by it, and children with allergies are more likely to
develop the condition. The Lancet noted that there has been an increase in
childhood allergies across the globe.

"Until the 19th century fever was regarded as a disease and maybe in
20, 30 or 50 years' time we will look back at asthma in the same way," said the


Anonymous said...

Hi, you don't know me. I'm the mother of 3 all with nasal allergies, and the youngest was just diagnosed with asthma. She's on Flovent daily, as well as Zyrtec, and Singulair, and Xopenex as needed. I'm still totally new to this, and trying to learn to identify when she's flaring. I've never heard her wheeze, but she coughs a lot at night, and mostly when she first wakes up in the morning or after naps. This is why she's on the daily stuff. I've been told to give the Xopenex if she starts coughing, but what I'm wondering, is this. Can you tell me what I'm listening for if I put my ear to her chest? What exactly am I listening for to recognise a wheeze. Her breathing tends to be noisier than my oldest, and I'm thinking that my middle is also going to get an Asthma diagnosis as well. I'm fairly certain that with my ear to his chest on a deep breath I heard sort of a slight "whistle", is that what I should hear for wheezing?? Sorry to write a novel, and I understand if you don't have the time to respond! Good luck with your little ones!

Aimee said...

Wow -- I wish I could be more helpful here... my kids never wheeze audibly. As most Asthma Moms can attest, you just develp a sixth sense for it. With B, it was the flaring nostrils, the irritability, and just something about the way he looked. With Oz, it's the dark circles under his eyes. With Ig...well, we're still figuring it out! Fortunately, the two older ones have "cough-variant" asthma now, so I just start albuterol as soon as they start coughing.

I wish I could be more helpful...but trust your instincts. If you think there's something up, there probably is. (Always call your doctor when that mom-sense kicks in.)

And it sounds like you've got a good doctor and action plan going, so you've got the battle half won.

Brittney said...

Evening! I just found your blog, and have been skimming through it. I wasn't sure if you've come across the theory yet that the milder forms of asthma, and severe asthma may have seperate causes but similair presenting symptoms. I'm trying to remember what online CE I heard that in, but it seemed logical to me. It could explain why some asthmatics are helped by inhaled steriods, while other require prednisone on a daily basis.

I happen to be on pred every other day, and have been for almost two years now (will be on Sept. 17). No medical training, just research to figure out how to help myself. :-)

Hope the boys are doing well!


Aimee said...

Thanks, Brittney. No, I haven't heard that theory, but I believe it, and I think I've always thought that might be true. My boys don't have allergies, and there's not genetic precedence for their asthma. I think it's caused either by air pollution here in lovely NJ, or something else environmental. But I'd love to learn more about this idea...