Do you have asthma? Yes, your health is in your hands, but this doesn't mean you should change your treatment plan without consulting your doctor.

Chronic treatment for asthma involves far more than managing physical symptoms. When you feel okay, it doesn’t mean you can stop taking your medicine or change your dosage. It means the medicine is working – and you need to keep taking it. If you feel worse, you should talk to your doctor, who will adapt your medicine or dosage until your condition improves.

Why should you take chronic medicine consistently?
Asthma causes inflammation of the small airways in the lungs. If left untreated, the chronic inflammation in these airways can cause permanent lung damage. Chronic medication for asthma helps to control inflammation, keeping the airways open and allowing you to breathe comfortably.

The medication also helps prevent sudden asthma attacks. This is why you shouldn’t stop taking your medication, even if you feel fine. If you only take the medicine when your chest feels tight, it will not prevent a serious asthma attack because the medication has to clear the inflammation from the airways over a period of time.

Your medication for acute asthma attacks will also work more effectively if you take your chronic medication every day.

Not taking your medication as prescribed will have an impact on your quality of life – you won’t be able to exercise, play sport or do any strenuous activities, because you’ll run out of breath. You may have to take regular sick days off work or school due to asthma flare-ups. And the debilitating effects of asthma could cause psychological complications such as anxiety and depression.

What can go wrong if you don’t take your medicine?
When you don’t take your asthma medication chronically, there could be several serious health complications:

    • The uncontrolled inflammation in your airways may permanently damage the tubes in your lungs. This will lead to chronic lung disease and even greater difficulty breathing. When permanent damage occurs, you won’t be able to reverse it with medication; you’ll merely be able to optimise the lung capacity you have left.

    • Not taking your chronic asthma medication also makes your lungs more vulnerable to serious infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These lung illnesses can make you very sick, and you may end up in hospital or even the intensive-care unit (ICU). You may also suffer from a collapsed lung.

    • Not controlling your asthma could lead to respiratory failure – when the lungs don’t exchange enough oxygen with the blood. As a result, the blood in your veins becomes very low in oxygen and high in carbon dioxide. This leads to lower oxygen levels throughout the body – eventually causing organ failure.

    • If your chronic asthma isn't under control, you’ll experience more acute asthma attacks. These asthma attacks are very dangerous and could progress to status asthmaticus. This is when an acute asthma attack doesn’t respond to medication.



What’s the worst that can happen?
Respiratory failure may follow an acute asthma attack that doesn't respond to medication (status asthmaticus), permanent damage to the airways caused by chronic inflammation, or serious lung illnesses (e.g. pneumonia) that don’t respond to treatment. This could lead to death.

All of these complications could be avoided by controlling inflammation in the airways with medication.

How can you fix this?
Is your asthma poorly controlled? Discuss this with your doctor. He or she will help you find a treatment regime that’s 100% right for you.

 

Reference: NHS.uk, UK, Mayoclinic.com, Webmd.com. Healthline.com




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