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World Asthma Day: Medical Experts Urge Patients To Take Control Of Condition


Asthma patient receiving treatment

Asthma patient receiving treatment

AS Nigeria celebrated the World Asthma Day last Tuesday, May 4, 2015, asthmatics have been reassured that even with their conditions, they can take control of their lives and achieve their life dreams.

This comes as health experts say awareness for the disease needs to be increased and sustained with more than 300 million people affected by the ailment around the world.

Asthma is a condition in which the airway (breathing passage) is inflamed, causing it to become narrower, reducing airflow through them and making the individual breathless and or wheeze.

Factors that contribute to the occurrence of the disease are unknown. However, there are predisposing and trigger factors that set off the condition. Spasms of the muscles around the airways, inflammation and swelling of the mucosal membrane lining the airways, and excessive amount of mucus contribute to airway narrowing. These make airway resistance increase and the work of breathing more difficult.

Its symptoms include recurrent cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, which is worse with exercise or during the night and can be relaxed with bronchodilator. These symptoms however escalate during attack with acute illness, breathlessness, anxiousness, restlessness and sweaty child who turns bluish because there is no enough oxygen in the blood.

But all these can be controlled and normal lives led by sufferers of this condition, according to experts who spoke at various fora in Lagos to mark the day.

These, they pointed out, can be achieved among other ways, through proper and long-term care, active management and adherence to an asthma action plan and working closely with their doctors.

Meanwhile, World Asthma Day (WAD) is an event organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world. The event, which has been marked yearly since 1998 takes place on first Tuesday in May and the theme of this year, which also has been the message for about three years now, is “You Can Control Your Asthma.”

Speaking at a forum organised by the Nigerian Thoracic Society (NTS), in Lagos, the President of the society, Prof. Peters Etete while calling on asthmatics to work with their doctors, said that asthma should not limit anyone and that death from it is one that should not happen.

He noted with dismay that many people in Nigeria still die of this ailment as a result of lack of education stating that even though it has no cure, it can be controlled.

“Despite the availability of different asthma drugs, a significant number of asthma patients are still limited with their asthma, while a sizeable number dies from the disease. An estimated 75 per cent of hospital admissions for asthma, and about 90 per cent of the deaths are avoidable. Nigeria has lost many gifted and illustrious sons and daughters prematurely due to asthma. This should not be so’, he said.

Continuing, he said: “This underscores the theme of this year’s WAD, “You Can Control Your Asthma.” More than 75 per cent of asthmatics do not achieve control. The underlying reason for causes of this is inadequate education.

“There is need for strong patient education that though their asthma may not be cured, it can be controlled; they can live optimally well with no limitation in spite of the asthma.”

Describing the ailment as being heterogeneous, that is, originating outside the body, from another individual or species, Etete noted that asthma is one of the most common chronic lung diseases affecting approximately 400 million people worldwide and one which the patients have to deal with on daily basis. He disclosed that around 15 million people in Nigeria are suffering from the ailment; a figure, which he further revealed, could rise with increase in urbanisation and uptake of western lifestyle.

He listed environment as a factor that can have huge impact on asthma exacerbations. Others include diet and low level of maternal level of Vitamin D during pregnancy, which subsequently has impact on the child.

These environmental factors according to Etete, might come from cigarette smoke, pollution of the atmosphere, and with climate change.

He called for patient education, which should be focused on appropriate use of controller medications and discourage injudicious use of relievers which are often abused.

Delivering a presentation at another forum organised by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), in partnership with Elias Nelson Oyedokun Foundation (ENOF), a foundation established by a family in memory of their late child, who died of asthma at the age of 13 to train healthcare providers and create awareness for the ailment, titled: “Asthma in School Children,” a Consultant Pediatrician with Massey Street Children Hospital, Dr Cecilia Abimbola Mabogunje, stated that schools need to develop a partnership in Asthma management.
According to her, there should be a management plan tailored specifically for each child suffering from Asthma such that they are adequately catered for when there is an attack.
“Schools need to be educated and empowered to help a child with Asthma. It is not a death sentence, it can be controlled. There should be a rescue plan in place for acute episode,” she stated.

Medical Science Liaison, GSK Nigeria, Dr. Omolabake Okunobi decried the low awareness creation in Nigeria of the nature and management of Asthma, noting that while there is no cure for the condition, it can be controlled.

According to her, “In line with our commitment to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer, GSK takes it as a duty to organize disease awareness programmes. This we do in partnership   with health organisations, government and non-governmental organisations like ENOF.”

She added that GSK has also taken a step further to ensure that medication for the control of Asthma is easily accessible to and affordable by all. “We understand the cost implication required in the treatment and control of Asthma and that is why we have rolled out medications that are affordable, so that many more patients suffering from the disease can have access to quality medication. We recommend that patients visit their physicians for appropriate assessment,” she said.

The President and Founder of ENOF, Barr. Lola Ilaka, noted that asthma deaths are the ultimate tragic evidence of uncontrolled condition, a condition which she said is mostly preventable if control measures are effectively instituted.

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