What is Asthma?
Asthma is a long-term disease involving the lungs and the narrow airways that supply them with oxygen. Symptoms can be as mild as coughing spells at night, irritability, tiredness, wheezing or losing your breath to unabated coughing, severe wheezing, rapid breathing, chest pain, and pressure, difficulty talking, panic, paleness, sweaty, inability to breathe, and blue fingernails, and/or lips. While there is no known cure, many asthma sufferers find they can readily manage their symptoms and lead a relatively normal, active life.
Managing your Asthma
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), approximately 25 million Americans have asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, nearly 88% of all patients felt they had their asthma under control yet almost half have been woken up in the middle of the night with shortness of breath as a result of their asthma. In fact, due to poor management and a general lack of awareness of their condition, Asthma is one of our countries most common and costly illnesses.
In fact, asthma is the cause of 4,261 deaths, about 500,000 hospitalizations, almost 2 million trips to the ER, and nearly 13 million visits to doctors annually, in the US alone. Every day 40,000 people in the US miss a day of work or school, and 1000 of them are admitted into the hospital. For adults that translates to 10.1 million lost or missed workdays each year which equates to $4.6 billion in lost productivity. Add $11.5 billion more to that and you have the total annual direct cost of asthma. That’s an expensive impact for an illness that over 80% of asthma sufferers think they have under control.
Part of the issue of control due to a lack of awareness of allergic asthma which accounts for 60 percent of all asthma sufferers. People with allergic asthma are bothered by normal allergens like pet dander, pollen, mold, mildew, and dust mites. Allergic asthma happens because their body makes too much immunoglobulin E, in an overreactive response of those previously listed allergens.
People whose asthma is not triggered by allergies are instead triggered by factors that act directly on the lungs like stress, infections, cold air, pollution, or exercise. Hopefully with better awareness of the illness, and which type you have will lead to better management and a better quality of life. That should also help offset the high cost of medical care for an illness that costs its sufferers $6 billion annually on drugs alone.
It’s a Global Problem
While there are roughly 20 million (some put it as high as 25 million) sufferers of asthma in the US that number rises abruptly when you step outside the US where global numbers for asthma is about 300 million. A little over 3,300 people die each year in the US, more than 250,000 people die each year outside the US. While those numbers may seem high, there are a lot of countries where data is limited and inaccurate, which could push that number quite a bit higher. Either way, for the US and the globe, it’s a serious problem.