Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways, making it difficult to breathe. With asthma, your air passages are inflamed. This means your airways become temporarily narrowed, and this affects the amount of oxygen that travels to your lungs. Common symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness.
Triggers for asthma include sinusitis, cold and flu, allergens like mould and spores, tobacco, weather changes (e.g. cold air), irritants like perfumes, strong emotions like stress and anxiety, and medication like aspirin.
With treatment, you can live with this condition, but asthma that’s not treated properly may lead to severe asthma. This includes an asthma attack. An asthma attack is when symptoms of asthma suddenly worsen. For example, your chest will tighten more, it may fill up with mucus, swell up and cause you pain. If asthma isn’t controlled properly, you could land up in the hospital.
Common treatment for asthma includes inhalers, steroids and anti-inflammatory medication, bronchodilators to open your airways and a nebulizer (breathing machine).
New asthma treatments
Scientists are always working to improve medication. The latest asthma medication in the works is called monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are targeted medicines that can help if you have severe asthma. They help block the activity of some immune system chemicals that trigger inflammation in your airways. This prevents your airways from becoming too inflamed and you’ll experience milder symptoms. Your risk for an asthma attack is lowered. If you have severe asthma symptoms and the usual treatment options haven’t been working for you, then monoclonal antibodies may help you. Here are a few monoclonal antibodies, as well as other new treatment for severe asthma.
Also known as omalizumab, Xolair helps treat severe allergic asthma. This asthma comes from allergens like pollen. When you encounter an allergen, your body makes immune system chemicals called antibodies. The antibodies play a role in how inflammation triggers your asthma symptoms. Xolair helps with this.
Mepolizumab (Nucala), is used to treat a type of asthma caused by a white blood cell called eosinophil. The treatment involves trying to decrease the number of cells causing the inflammation. The symptoms of people with this kind of severe asthma aren’t triggered by allergens. This makes it an effective, targeted treatment.
Also known as Cinqaero, Reslizumab is another treatment for asthma that’s caused by the eosinophil white blood cell. It lowers the number of cells that cause inflammation, making your symptoms milder and easier to control.Bronchial thermoplasty If medication doesn’t work, a surgery may be necessary. Bronchial thermoplasty is a surgical technique. It involves applying radio frequency to your airways. The heat from the radio frequency destroys some of the smooth lining in the airway. This helps prevent muscles from narrowing the opening. It isn’t a cure for asthma, but research says it helps reduce symptoms.
Leukotriene is a chemical that tightens and narrows your airways when you have an asthma attack caused by allergens. A leukotriene modifier blocks this from happening. It comes in the form of oral medication to prevent and treat asthma attacks.
Good to know
- To choose the right treatment, ask your doctor about your triggers. You can help by keeping track of these when you have an asthma attack.
- Severe asthma treatments like monoclonal antibodies aren’t available over the counter at pharmacies.
- Research new asthma treatments and ask your doctor if they’re available locally. Also ask if you’re a good candidate to try the new treatment.
- Nucola hasn’t been approved in South Africa yet. It’s been approved in Canada, Australia, Japan, Switzerland, Chile, South Korea and Taiwan.