DO you cough, wheeze or have a tight chest because of asthma four or more days a week?
Does coughing, wheezing or chest tightness wake you at night at least once a week?
Have you stopped exercising because of your asthma in the past 3 months?
Do you use your blue inhaler four or more times a week?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your asthma might be uncontrolled. And that means you need to talk to a doctor soon to find how you could feel better.
The four questions are from GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical’s 30-second asthma test to find out whether a person’s asthma is truly under control. The 30-second asthma test campaign, says Dr Luke Lin, GSK Pharmaceutical medical affair director, is being conducted to raise the awareness among asthmatics.
“With four short questions, asthmatics can immediately discover whether their disease is being controlled effectively or whether they should go to their doctor to discuss more effective management of the disease,” he says at a press conference to launch the 30-second asthma test.
“When you look at sportsmen like Paul Scholes of Manchester United, who is asthmatic, you can see that the disease does not disable anyone,” Dr Lin says. “We cannot emphasise enough that patients today don’t have to live with their symptoms.”
This simple and patient-friendly 30-second asthma test is a modification of a test developed by the Royal College of Physicians and the Health Ministry has approved it as an attachment onto packs of commonly used rescue medication.
The test was randomly conducted among 247 asthma sufferers in Kuala Lumpur in March 2003 and none of those questioned passed the test, indicating that their asthma may not be well controlled.
The random test confirms the findings of the Asthma Insights and Reality in Asia Pacific (AIRIAP) study that asthma control in Malaysia is far from satisfactory. And this is contrary to the standards for the management of the disease set by GINA (Global Initiative for Asthma).
GINA states that as a primary goal asthma sufferers should experience minimal or no symptoms of asthma. Among other GINA goals are that asthma symptoms should not interfere with daily activities, wake a sufferer at night or cause wheezing during strenuous physical activity, and symptoms definitely should not cause an emergency visit to the doctor.
The AIRIAP study was conducted among 3,206 people in the Asia Pacific region in 2000, with 404 randomly selected asthma patients in Malaysia.
The Malaysian part of the survey concluded that:
The survey points to a key factor of the Malaysian findings – 71% of patients polled mistakenly believed that only the symptoms of the disease can be treated and not the underlying condition.
The survey, says Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai, Hospital Kuala Lumpur medicine department consultant pulmonary and critical care physician, reaffirms the urgent need for increased patient education about asthma and its management. The expectations of treatment among patients are currently focused on symptom control, he says. However, current asthma therapy allows for the control of both symptoms as well as the disease process.
Dr Jeyaindran says patients have to be aware that being symptom-free is not being disease free. “In Malaysia, most patients still rely on short-acting inhalers as the primary treatment of their asthma,” he says.
However, he adds, for optimal asthma control, the combination of a preventative treatment and a long-term beta agonist (reliever) is the best option.
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