LivingAsthma debate: raising awareness of an underrated disease

Asthma debate: raising awareness of an underrated disease

Among the variability of chronic diseases that affects the Spanish population, asthma is one of those that deserves the most attention, due to its specific characteristics.

When we look at the data, we realize that asthma has a prevalence of between five and ten percent in Spain , especially among the child population, which means that eight to fifteen people out of every thousand suffer from it each year. Although its incidence is relatively high, there is a rather low perception of risk in the population. But asthma also kills, and it continues to kill now as it did ten years ago. It tends to do it in elderly people, more often, women; Despite this, anyone with asthma, even mild, is at risk.

Aware that this disease needs new approaches to reduce mortality and improve the quality of life of patients, a group of experts from various scientific and health entities has met in a current debate on asthma, organized by AstraZeneca and with the support from Gaceta Médica, El Global, Ser Padres y Muy Interesante. The debate was moderated by Santiago de Quiroga, CEO of WeCare-U Comunicación SL. and Enrique Coperías, director of Muy Interesante magazine.

What is asthma?

Once the current asthma situation has been put into context, we enter the matter hand in hand with the professionals.

It is defined by Dr. Juan Antonio Trigueros, Coordinator of the Respiratory Pathology Group of the Spanish Society of General and Family Physicians (SEMG): “It is a syndrome, a set of events, such as inflammation of the bronchi, which obstruct the airway”.

Although asthma can be of varying severity, patients should never dismiss mild asthma. In fact, mortality from asthma is precisely related to their low perception of risk, given that a significant number of deceased patients did not visit their doctor on the inside day.

In this sense, Dr. Jesús Molina, a specialist in Family and Community Medicine, emphasized at the beginning of the talk on the control of the disease: “When the patient is not monitored, it is when he has that false feeling that he is well. You have to change the idea that you can only get help when you have symptoms , and adopt a more preventive and less symptomatic point of view ”.

For his part, Dr. Trigueros makes us see an even more pressing and usually hidden reality: comorbidities.

“For the asthma patient, it is a trauma to discover that he has a chronic disease, especially in a young man, for example, 14 years old. They tend to suffer stigma, and also tend to have aversion to activities that can accentuate an attack, such as sports; stop doing many things that you like ”.

“For example, you want to go on a date with the girl you like in the country, where there are olive trees that cause allergies, and this can be a trigger for asthma.”

The risk of death is higher in advanced ages, but the child and young population is especially affected by asthma, and therefore also their quality of life.

In terms of incidence, asthma occurs more frequently in the female gender. Although the causes of this preponderance are not well studied, doctors pointed to some related hormonal characteristics, as well as precocious puberty or obesity.

In turn, in advanced ages, when the risk of death is higher, it increases even more if there are psychiatric problems.

Dr. Santiago Rueda, who heads the Pediatric Pulmonology Unit of the San Carlos Clinical University Hospital in Madrid, gave some more clues related to the incidence of asthma: “We know that there are genes involved, that is, that there is a hereditary genetic basis that can contribute to the development of asthma , and that in turn the disease can be favored by some external factors, such as smoking ”.

Asthma attack

The asthma attack is related to the concept of controlling the disease. As Dr. Francisco Javier Álvarez Gutiérrez, member of the Asthma Unit of the Virgen del Rocío University Hospital in Seville and coordinator of the SEPAR Asthma Area pointed out during the talk, most attacks are preventable ; Of course, there are studies that link the deterioration of lung function with the asthma attack: “An asthma attack can cause a deterioration in lung function , and the deterioration in turn can lead to more asthma attacks. As we can see, it is a vicious circle ”.

Due to comorbidities, Dr. Álvarez also called for the participation of other interprofessional groups to help control the disease: from allergists, nurses, psychologists … through the role of nursing professionals.

In this sense, Dr. Rueda also mentioned the importance of other social actors, not necessarily healthcare, such as educators or trainers, to raise awareness in the patient.

Investing in asthma pays off

Towards the conclusion of the debate, the speakers made a very clear point: the patient with asthma can be helped to lead a normal life, and we have the tools to do so.

“It is everyone’s job. The patient, the professional and the media have to intervene ”, as Dr. Jesús Molina pointed out.

Of course, as Dr. José Tomás Gómez Sáenz, National Coordinator of the SEMERGEN Respiratory Working Group, recalled: “It is a job from childhood to pharmacy”; that is, awareness about the prevention of the disease must be produced from the home until the adult comes to receive the advice of health professionals.

In order to guarantee this quality of life to patients, it is necessary to make a good diagnosis . But the fact that the patient only asks his doctor for help when he has severe symptoms means that this process is not well covered, as recognized by Dr. Trigueros. For this reason, the abuse of treatment for the relief of symptoms can be harmful , to the detriment of a treatment necessary to control the disease more effectively: “The focus on treatment and not on prevention has discriminated against asthma a lot against other respiratory diseases”.

For his part, Dr. Álvarez pointed out that for him, the key word is awareness : “It is profitable to invest in asthma. In all the studies carried out on the cost of the disease, it is observed that by increasing investment in drugs and control, indirect costs, such as sick leave, decrease. Administrations, patients, healthcare professionals must be made aware … “

For Dr. Javier Dominguez Ortega, member of SEAIC and member of the Allergology Service of Hospital La Paz (IdiPAZ): “Asthma is not a trivial disease, and we work so that the patient realizes that they do not have to assume no exercise, not go to such a place … “

In addition, Dr. Domínguez mentioned some fundamental advice: “If you don’t know what type of asthma you have, but you suspect it because you use specific medication, go to your doctor.” In addition, the doctor recommended taking some preventive measures, such as not smoking or avoiding very dry environments.

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