Medication has helped the majority of asthma patients to live a perfectly normal and healthy life, said the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre’s head of chest medicine, Prof. Nadeem Rizvi.
He was speaking at a seminar on asthma organised by his department in collaboration with the Pakistan Chest Society on Wednesday. Chest physicians, postgraduate students and doctors attended the seminar.
Prof. Rizvi spoke about managing the condition, including cases that are difficult to handle, while the chest physician and consultant, Dr Mirza Saifullah, said that over 300 million people across the globe suffer from asthma.
Prevalence is increasing in countries like Pakistan due to urbanisation and the adoption of western lifestyle. The exposure of children and pregnant women to household allergens like dust mites and rodent and cockroach excretions also leads to asthma.
Dr Nisar Rao, a consultant chest physician at Ojha Institute of Chest Diseases, said that asthma is under-diagnosed, particularly in developing countries. He pointed out that many of the patients are diagnosed with chest infections and treated with antibiotics and cough syrups.
Not all asthmatics suffer from shortness of breath. “Even if they cough repeatedly one should suspect the possibility of asthma, particularly when the weather is changing,” said Dr Rao.
A senior chest physician said that a simple gauge called a ‘peak-flow meter’ can be used to diagnose asthma. However, 90 per cent of the doctors do not use it.
Prof. Javaid A Khan of the Aga Khan University spoke of the asthma management in the country. He said that poor compliance is a major problem with managing the respiratory disease. Compliance refers to how well patients follow medical advice. A lack of knowledge and understanding about the disease also contributes to poor management.
Khan also criticised the way vaccine therapy was being used to treat patients. He warned that this can be dangerous as it cannot be recommended all the time. Allergy vaccine treatment should only be prescribed when all else fails.
Ziauddin Medical University’s Prof. Sohail Akhtar said that step-wise asthma management has improved the quality of life for many patients. He insisted that the use of inhalers is safe, even for young children. They should be available in public hospitals for poor patients and pharmaceutical companies should reduce the cost of inhalers, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2011.