As world observes the Asthma Day on Tuesday, Ravindra Nallagondla, interventional pulmonologist at Global Hospitals, highlights various new approaches being practised to treat asthma and underlines the growing incidence of asthma in a free-wheeling chat with Express.
How prevalent is asthma in our society?
Many do not consider the threat asthma poses to our health. It is often overlooked as a minor problem. But I tell you, the incidence of asthma is increasing in our society due to various factors like pollution and smoking among others. We cannot pinpoint a single reason for asthma. Many other health problems ranging from respiratory tract infections and depression to obesity are also associated with asthma. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 60,000 die of asthma in India every year.
Why is asthma rising in spite of increasing awareness about health?
Though advances are being made in all spheres of medicine, as I said earlier, people or medical practitioners do not recognise asthma as serious. The kind of focus that is on problems related to neurology, cardiology, nephrology and others is absent when it comes to asthma. But we forget hat it is the respiratory tract diseases which cause the highest number of deaths all over the world. At the diagnosis level itself, we are unable to spot asthma cases. I hope this year, Asthma Day’s theme ‘You can control your asthma’ highlights the problem.
Don’t we have advanced diagnostic techniques to detect asthma early?
We have all the advanced medical equipment and technology for diagnosis. But patients should approach the doctor first! Unlike other diseases, even doctors do not screen patients specifically.
What about the treatments available?
We have made rapid strides in treatment of asthma. As asthma is also associated with many other diseases, ‘combined airway approach’ is being practised for effective treatment. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways associated with increased airway hyper-responsiveness, recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. Airway inflammation produces airflow limitation through acute bronchoconstriction, chronic mucus plug formation and airway wall swelling or remodelling among others. Therefore, inculcating a comprehensive and combined approach to treat airway is giving effective results.
Your advise to asthma patients?
Asthma usually appears through symptoms like coughing, tightness in the chest, breathlessness, among others. Therefore, a patient should not neglect these factors and consult a doctor immediately. It is important to diagnose asthma at an early stage as it helps preserve the lungs. Simple tools like peak flow meter are available to diagnose and monitor asthma for everyone. By using combined airway approach and inhalation therapy, asthma can be fully controlled. But patients should continue taking medication as stopping medication midway can worsen the situation.