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March 5, 2008 > Do You or a Loved One Suffer From Asthma?

Do You or a Loved One Suffer From Asthma?

Washington Hospital Seminar Focuses on the Chronic Lung Disease

Breathing isn't something most of us think about. We just do it. But imagine trying to breathe through a straw. That's how many people describe what it feels like to have asthma, a chronic lung disease that affects your ability to breathe.
In the last three decades, asthma has become an epidemic. Nearly 5 million Californians have the disease, according to the American Lung Association of California.
"There is no cure for asthma, but most people can control their symptoms," said Dr. Jeffrey Kishiyama, an allergist and immunologist who will present an upcoming asthma seminar at Washington Hospital.
"Do You or a Loved One Suffer From Asthma?" is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11, at the Conference Center next to Washington Hospital's Nakamura Clinic, 33077 Alvarado Niles Road, in Union City. For more information or to reserve a space, call (800) 963-7070.
"I will talk about what happens inside your lungs when you have asthma," Kishiyama said. "If you understand what's happening, it's easier to understand how the medications work."
Asthma causes the inside of the airways to become inflamed and swollen, which restricts the flow of air. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing, especially at night and in the early morning.
However, not all people have these symptoms and symptoms may vary from one asthma episode to the next. They can range from mildly annoying to life-threatening.
Asthma symptoms also differ in how often they occur. Some people have symptoms every day while others only experience them once a week or month.
Scientists aren't sure what causes asthma. It may be a combination of things, including a family history of asthma and allergies. New research also suggests being exposed to tobacco smoke, infections, air pollution, and some allergens early in life may increase your chances of developing asthma.
"Asthma seems to be a consequence of genes combined with environmental exposures," Kishiyama said. "Researchers are investigating what those exposure factors might include."
Controlling Symptoms is Key
It is clear that environmental factors such as allergens like dust and pollen and irritants like smoke and air pollution can bring on asthma symptoms. Kishiyama will discuss these and other asthma triggers and the role they play.
"People with asthma need to learn how to control their asthma symptoms by avoiding the conditions that bring them on and properly using their prescribed medications," Kishiyama said.
He will discuss the various medications available and how they work. There are two main types for controlling asthma symptoms, including quick-relief medicines and long-term therapies.
Medications that provide instant relief are often called rescue inhalers. They are taken at the first signs of asthma symptoms and provide quick relief by immediately opening up the airways.
Long-term control medicines are taken every day over long periods of time to prevent symptoms and serious asthma episodes. You don't feel the full effects of these medicines until after a couple weeks.
It's important to work with your doctor to develop an asthma self-management plan for keeping your asthma under control. These plans include the medications you should take and how often along with other steps you need to take to properly manage your asthma.
With proper asthma management, most people with the disease can keep their symptoms under control and live a normal life. But when asthma goes uncontrolled or undiagnosed, it can be life-threatening.
To learn more about asthma, attend the upcoming seminar. To reserve a space, call (800) 963-7070.
For more information about other Washington Hospital programs and services, visit

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