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Asthma Treatment

How is Asthma Treated?

Asthma is a chronic disease that cannot be cured. But medicines and lifestyle changes can help control the symptoms. One way to help relieve asthma is to avoid things in the environment that make symptoms worse. A number of types of medicines are also used to treat asthma. Most work by opening the lung airways and reducing inflammation.

The medicines used to treat asthma fall into two groups: quick-relief and long-term control.


Quick relief medicines are used only when needed. They should be taken when symptoms are getting worse to prevent a full-blown asthma attack.  They can also be used to stop attacks once they have started. These medicines relieve symptoms in minutes. Short-acting inhaled bronchodilators (albuterol and pirbuterol) are two commonly used quick relief medicines. They quickly relax tightened muscles around the airways. 

Long-Term Control

Long-term control medicines or controller medicines are taken every day, usually over a long period of time. Over time, these medicines relieve symptoms and prevent asthma attacks in those with mild or moderate persistent asthma.

These medications help control inflammation in the lungs. To be effective, they must be used every day. These medicines are not intended to relieve symptoms immediately. Some may even take a few weeks to have their full effect.

Some long-term control medicines include:

Staying away from triggers, taking your medicine consistently, and regular visits to the doctor will help you take control of asthma.

I just found out I'm pregnant, should I still take my asthma medicines?

It is very important to call your doctor as soon as you find out you're pregnant. As your doctor will explain, it is extremely important to manage your asthma symptoms when you are pregnant. Taking asthma medicines and avoiding triggers helps make sure the baby gets enough oxygen. Untreated asthma can harm a growing fetus.

Many asthma medicines seem to be safe for use during pregnancy. Inhaled medicines are usually preferred for pregnant women. These medicines are less likely to be passed on to the baby than oral medicines. However, sometimes pregnant women need oral medicines to control symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the safety of asthma medicines during pregnancy. You should also talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot after the first trimester. The flu can be very serious for pregnant women with asthma.

Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

If you smoke, have a cough that won't go away, and shortness of breath see your doctor. To figure out if you have COPD, doctors usually:

Your doctor may also suggest other tests like chest x rays to make sure something else is not causing your problems. X rays may allow the doctor to see if another lung disease or heart disease is causing your symptoms.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Treatment

The damage to the lungs in COPD cannot be repaired. But treatment can relieve symptoms. The only thing that can slow the progress of the disease is to stop smoking. So if you're a smoker, the single most important thing you can do is stop smoking. This slows down COPD and minimizes future damage to the lungs.

Medicines can also help you feel better. Common medicines used to treat COPD include:

Sometimes doctors also recommend the following for women with COPD:

Lung Cancer Signs

Usually there are no warning signs of early lung cancer. But if there is a sign, it is usually a cough. By the time most women have symptoms, the lung cancer often has advanced to more serious stages.

Symptoms of lung cancer may include:

If you have any of these problems, call your doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will ask about your personal and family health history, smoking history, and exposure to harmful substances. She will also do a physical exam and may suggest some tests.

Common tests for lung cancer include:

I smoke, should I get tested for Lung Cancer?

Talk to your doctor. Some doctors suggest testing smokers over 50 years of age for lung cancer. But experts still are not sure if routine testing/screening saves or prolongs lives.

Testing for cancer before a person has any symptoms is called screening. Screening tends to find cancers early when it is easier to cure and treat. Screening high-risk groups, such as smokers for lung cancer is a controversial issue.

Many studies show that using x rays to screen smokers for lung cancer does not save lives. For this reason, the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) do not recommend screening for lung cancer.  It is important to note that the USPSTF does not recommend against screening either. More studies are needed to show the exact risks and benefits of screening for lung cancer. Some groups do recommend screening in at-risk groups including smokers over 45-years and people exposed to lung-damaging substances at work.

Computerized tomography scans (CT scans) show promise as a screening tool. The National Cancer Institute is doing an important study called the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) to answer important questions about routine testing for lung cancer. This study will show if screening with CT scans and/or chest x rays can save lives.

Lung Cancer Treatment

Most lung cancer is hard to treat. The best way to fight lung cancer is to never start smoking or to stop smoking.  If you need help to stop smoking, talk to your doctor. A government website all about quitting smoking can also help you kick the habit.

Lung cancer can be treated in a number of different ways including a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Most of the time treatment does not cure the cancer but stops it from spreading and relieves symptoms. Your specific treatment will depend on:

Radiation therapy uses a machine to aim high-energy x rays at the tumor. This energy kills cancer cells. Radiation therapy can relieve pain and make a person feel better.

Chemotherapy uses medicine to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy medicines can be injected into a vein or taken as a pill.

Surgery is used to remove tumors.