With two major asthma observances in the month of May – World Asthma Day on May 3 and Asthma Awareness Month – they provide an opportunity for patients with Respiratory conditions, like severe asthma, to address the realities of their disease, and begin living life to its fullest.
Asthma is a serious, chronic disease that causes the airways in the lungs to become swollen or inflamed and over-reactive to triggers like pollen, dust or smoke. Severe asthma requires inhaled medications, controller medications, and oftentimes oral corticosteroids, and can take a significant toll on people living with this disease. According to a survey conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), 97 percent of people living with severe asthma report that their asthma limits their everyday tasks; 83 percent said severe asthma affects their personal relationships with family, spouses/partners, friends and co-workers; 78 percent said their severe asthma is always in the back of their mind.
However, despite using high-dose medicines, following a management plan and taking steps to reduce risks, people living with severe asthma may feel like their condition continues to dictate their quality of life given the complex nature of this disease.
Liz Bodin, VP, US Respiratory & Immunology at AstraZeneca, connected with Jennifer, a patient who lives with severe asthma, and Kenneth Mendez, Chief Executive Officer and President of AAFA, to discuss the challenges that persist for the patient community and their hopes for the future management of this disease.
Liz Bodin: Can you describe the impact severe asthma has on your day-to-day life?
Jennifer: I speak from personal experience when I say that many people don’t understand how much of a toll on your job, relationship and hobbies asthma can have. Daily activities can be a struggle, and most days I use my rescue inhaler. I’m constantly checking the weather to see if it’s too hot, too cold – both can trigger my asthma – pollen count, wind speed, etc., to determine if I’ll be able to open up windows or go outside. My motto living with severe asthma is definitely ‘One day at a time.’ For people like me, you have to be flexible when it comes to this disease, because symptoms and flare ups can come at any time.
Liz Bodin: As a leader in the asthma and allergy community, what is a major unmet need that persists for people living with severe asthma?
Kenneth Mendez: Although there’s no cure for asthma, there are ways to help manage it. We always recommend that people with asthma work with their doctors to create an asthma management plan and see a specialist, if possible.
Unfortunately, there remains a disconnect between the number of people living with severe asthma and their access to specialty care. Due to the complexity and severity of the disease, a specialist is often best equipped to help diagnose and treat severe asthma. However, in the US, only 38 percent of people living with severe asthma have seen a specialist—such as a pulmonologist, allergist or immunologist—over the past two years. That means more than 60 percent of Americans living with severe asthma are not getting specialized care that could help them find the right combination of medications and lifestyle changes to better manage their condition.
Liz Bodin: What advice would you give to others living with severe asthma, and what is your hope for the future of your disease?
Jennifer: The best advice I can give to others living with severe asthma is don't be afraid to talk to your healthcare team. Advancements in the treatment of severe asthma are happening every day, so it's a good idea to occasionally re-evaluate your asthma treatment plan with your doctor, especially if you feel like your asthma symptoms could be better controlled. I know what it’s like to cancel plans, reschedule vacations, opt out of hobbies to avoid triggers, and even have to uproot your life and move to a different state to help control asthma.
Recently, I learned more about my asthma through a new, innovative tool AIRQ which helped me better understand my level of asthma control and empowered me to take charge of my asthma journey. It’s important for people living with asthma to understand their level of asthma control because it could help inform conversations with their doctor and help them live a life less defined by asthma symptoms.
I am incredibly excited about the new treatment options available for severe asthma, which may help me and millions of others to finally live a life that is no longer controlled by this disease.
Liz Bodin: What steps do you recommend people like Jennifer who are living with severe asthma take to help manage their condition?
Kenneth Mendez: In recent years, new treatment options have emerged, so people living with severe asthma have the opportunity to work with their asthma or allergy specialist to decide which asthma management plan best fits their unique needs.
For resources, visit AAFA.org to download free materials and tools.