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Health Journey Support | What Is Uncontrolled Asthma?

Long-term maintenance medications for asthma are prescribed to help control the inflammation and bronchoconstriction that causes asthma symptoms. This brochure describes the signs of uncontrolled asthma and explains why it is important to get your asthma under control.

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What is Uncontrolled Asthma?

Long-term maintenance medications for asthma are prescribed to help control the inflammation and bronchoconstriction that causes asthma symptoms. Your asthma may be uncontrolled if your treatments no longer reduce or prevent your symptoms.

Approximately 5% of people with asthma suffer from severe uncontrolled asthma1, and it is only diagnosed in about half of those who suffer from it.2

Signs that your asthma is not well-controlled

  • You experience asthma symptoms, like tightness in your chest or shortness of breath, more than twice a week
  • Your coughing wakes you at night, one to three times a week
  • You have some limitation in your daily activities (including exercise) because of your asthma symptoms
  • Your lung function, as measured by your peak flow monitoring, is between 60 and 80 percent of your personal best peak flow
  • You are using your rescue inhaler more than 2 days a week
  • You experience asthma attacks two or more times a year

Contact your doctor if you experience any of these signs. He or she may need to change your medicine to help get your asthma under control.

Why it's important to get your asthma under control

Uncontrolled asthma may be associated with:

  • Learning disabilities in children and lower school performance in school
  • Decreased ability to exercise and participate in activities due to daytime asthma symptoms
  • Sleep deprivation due to ongoing nighttime asthma symptoms
  • Increased risk of getting pneumonia and having more asthma attacks following upper respiratory tract infections
  • Adults having problems with focused attention and concentration
  • Increase in the number and severity of asthma attacks
  • Airway narrowing and loss of lung function, and possible mechanical ventilation
  • Decrease in the physical fitness of children
  • Higher risk of obesity in children
  • Greater health risks to mother and baby during pregnancy
  • Death
  • Increased risk of developing stress, anxiety disorders, and depression

Managing daily activities

You can take steps to help manage your asthma:

  • Follow your asthma action plan created with your doctor
  • Take your medicines as instructed by your doctor
  • Use your peak flow meter to regularly monitor how well you are breathing
  • Go to your asthma checkups to determine your how well your asthma is controlled
  • Know your symptoms and what triggers them
  • Avoid triggers in and around your home*
    • Dust, animal dander, cockroaches, mold and pollen
    • Cigarette smoke, air pollution, strong chemicals and fragrances
    • Some medicines, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and nonselective beta-blockers
    • Sulfites found in food items and beverages
    • Upper respiratory infections, like colds
    • Excessive physical activity

*This list does not include all asthma triggers.

Having to use quick relief medicine often, is a sign that your asthma may not be under control. Let your doctor know if you need to use it more than two days in a week. Don't use a rescue inhaler in place of your daily, long-term asthma medicine.

References: 1. Plaza-Moral V. Farmacoeconomía del asma. Med Clin Monogr. (Barc) 2002;3 (suppl 1):49-53. 2. GEMA 2009 (Spanish guideline on the Management of asthma). J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2010;20 (suppl 1):1-59.