Asthma: State of the Disease

70% of patients misuse their inhalers and Diskus devices

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

If you are one of the 17.5 million adults or 7.1 million children in the U.S. who suffer from asthma, keeping up with all the most recent research and news can be dizzying.

Here is a rundown of the most important asthma news that has come out in the last six months:

How to Handle Your Inhaler

According to new research, once asthma and lung disease patients leave the hospital and are no longer under the supervision of physicians, they are likely to misuse their respiratory inhalers.

The researchers discovered that incorrect use of inhalers was highly common, with 86 percent of study participants misusing their metered-dose inhalers and 71 percent misusing Diskus® devices. The good news is that these misuse issues were easily resolved by re-teaching patients how to correctly use their inhalers. All of the study participants were able to fully master use of both metered dose inhalers and Diskus® devices.

Watch the Road!

Previous studies have identified a relationship between traffic pollutants (vehicle exhaust and road dirt) and airborne allergens. The combination of the two may cause the immune system to react disproportionately to the allergens, thus causing symptoms of asthma.

One study found an increased risk of asthma and allergies from living close to high-traffic-density roadways, suggesting that kids with asthma should not live at the edges of housing developments that abut high-traffic roads.

The Family that Plays Together, Breathes Better

Researchers found that the quality of family interactions during mealtime was directly related to the health of the asthmatic child, including lung function, symptoms of asthma, and the degree to which asthma interfered with a child's daily life. More specifically, families who spent mealtimes talking about the day's events, showing a sincere interest in each other's activities and without the distractions of electronics had children with better health.

Conversely, the researchers found that families with more disruptions during mealtime - such as from cell phones or TV - were more likely to have asthmatic children with poorer health. Such findings support other studies, which have shown that watching television, or time spent in front of any screen, contributes to a variety of health risks.

On the Geeky-Science Front

Scientists have created a 3-D model of the molecule that causes the chronic lung inflammation responsible for asthma. This model may help in the design of new and improved asthma drugs. The 3-D model of the asthma molecule is called Human 5-Lipoxygenase (5-LOX) and was developed by Louisiana State University.

Doctors have long known that viral infections can bring about asthma attacks and the shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing associated with them. And now scientists have discovered that bacterial infections can also cause asthma attacks, however unlike untreatable viral infections, bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. Yes, that reads “antibiotics,” your eyes aren’t fooling you. The discovery could revolutionize treatment.

"We found a significant relationship between bacterial infections and acute asthma attacks - above and beyond the expected relationship between viral infections and attacks," says Hans Bisgaard, a professor of pediatrics who ran the study.

And don’t forget there are other culprits shown to increase asthma symptoms in children, including weight and imbalanced metabolism. Children who eat a poor diet and lack exercise are more likely to have an imbalanced metabolism, which can contribute to development of the chronic inflammatory lung disease, according to a recent study in American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Review Date: 
March 2, 2011