What Is Asthma?
Classified as a lung disease, asthma is a condition in which the patient’s airways constrict due to a reaction to a trigger. The airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus.
When a person with asthma breathes in a trigger, the insides of their airways swell even more. This narrows the space for the air to move in and out of the lungs. The muscles that wrap around the airways can tighten, as well, making breathing even harder. This is an asthma attack.
There is no cure for asthma. The key is managing and controlling symptoms.
How Is Asthma Commonly Treated?
Prevention and long-term control are key. The goal is to stop asthma attacks before they start. At MXBowen, our treatments with asthma patients involve helping them recognize their triggers, taking steps to avoid them, and tracking breathing to ensure your medications are keeping symptoms in check. Medications are used to treat asthma. They go far beyond quick-relief inhalers, clinically called bronchodilators, that quickly open swollen airways.
Long-term asthma control medications — These are usually taken daily and are the main course of treatment.
- Inhaled corticosteroids
- Leukotriene modifiers
- Combination inhalers
Quick-relief medications — These medications are needed for rapid, short-term symptom relief during an asthma attack.
- Short-acting beta agonists
- Anticholinergic agents
- Oral and intravenous corticosteroids
Allergy medications — If a patient’s asthma is triggered or worsened by allergies, these medications address those reactions.
- Allergy shots
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of chronic inflammatory lung diseases that cause obstructed airflow from the lungs. The most common of these diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, a chronic cough, lack of energy, swelling in the ankles or feet, and others. It’s estimated that 30 million people in the U.S. have COPD. Around half of them do not know they have the condition.
What Are Common Treatments for COPD?
Oxygen Therapy — If the person’s blood oxygen level is too low, this can be addressed with supplemental oxygen through a mask or nasal cannula. Portable oxygen units enable the person to still be mobile.
- Bronchodilators. Medications known as bronchodilators help to relax tight muscles in the airways. These are typically delivered through inhalers or nebulizers. The patient uses them as needed, and they last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours or long-acting options lasting up to 12 hours.
- Corticosteroids. Long-acting bronchodilators are often combined with glucocorticosteroids. The steroid acts to reduce inflammation in the airways.
- Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors. This oral medication also reduces airway inflammation. It is used for severe COPD with chronic bronchitis.
- Theophylline. This medication eases tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. Because of potential side effects, this is not a first-line treatment for COPD.
- Antibiotics and antivirals. When a COPD patient develops respiratory infections, due to their decreased airflow, it’s necessary to target the infection.
- Vaccines. Yearly flu shots, pneumonia vaccine, and tetanus boosters can help to lower the risk of developing respiratory infections.
- Surgery. Surgery may be necessary for severe COPD patients, especially severe emphysema. The damaged lung tissue may be removed in a bullectomy or lung volume reduction. Lung transplantation is an option, but it has many risks.
What Is Interstitial Lung Disease?
Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a group of various lung conditions, not a single disease. These diseases affect the interstitium, which is part of the lungs. The interstitium is a lace-like network of tissue throughout the lungs that supports the alveoli. When a person develops interstitial lung disease the interstitium thickens. This can happen due to inflammation, scarring, or a buildup of fluid. Some forms of ILD are acute and short term, while others are ongoing and chronic. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is one of the more well-known interstitial lung diseases.
What Are the Common Treatments for Interstitial Lung Disease?
With the range of ILDs, treatments vary. Here are some of the treatments used:
- Antibiotics — Used for interstitial pneumonias, antibiotics go after the bacteria.
- Corticosteroids — Inflammation causes damage and scarring in the lungs. Corticosteroids reduce this inflammation by slowing the body’s immune system activity.
- Inhaled oxygen — Direct oxygen delivery through a mask or nose cannula helps to raise low oxygen levels due to lung damage.
- Lung transplant — In advanced cases of interstitial lung disease a lung transplant may be the only way to address the amount of irreversible damage.
- Azathioprine — Brand named Imuran, this drug slows down the immune system. While it doesn’t improve ILD, it can help with symptoms.
- N-acetylcysteine — Brand named Mucomyst, this antioxidant appears to slow the decline in lung function in some forms of interstitial lung disease.
What Is Lung Cancer?
Cancers are named for their place or origin. Hence, lung cancer is cancer that begins in the lungs. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Lung cancer can develop in people who have never smoked, but the greatest risk comes to those who have smoked and for how long they have smoked.
What Are Common Treatment Options for Lung Cancer?
When a diagnosis, such as the lung cancer screening we offer at MXBowen, shows a patient has lung cancer, these are common treatment approaches.
- Surgery — In these surgeries, the goal is to remove the cancerous tissue from the lungs. Lung cancer surgery can involve removing a portion of the lung or the entire lung.
- Radiation therapy — Radiation therapy delivers radiation from x-rays and protons to kill cancer cells. Because of its side effects, radiation delivery needs complete precision.
- Chemotherapy — Chemotherapy kills cancer cells through chemotherapy drugs delivered intravenously or orally.
- Stereotactic body radiotherapy — Also known as radiosurgery, this procedure delivers beams of radiation onto the cancer from many different angles.
- Targeted drug therapy — Cancer cells have various abnormalities within them. Certain drugs have been created to block these abnormalities in these cells. This causes the cancer cells to die.
- Immunotherapy — Immunotherapy puts the body’s own defenses to work to fight the cancer. Cancer cells can hide from the immune system by producing certain proteins that mask their true identity. Immunotherapy interferes with this protein production, so the body can spot and attack the cancer cells.
What Is Congestive Heart Failure?
Conditions such as coronary artery disease and high blood pressure can cause the heart muscle to pump blood less efficiently. This is congestive heart failure. This can allow blood to back up and fluid can build in the lungs. This causes shortness of breath.
What Are the Common Treatments for Congestive Heart Failure?
Once a person develops congestive heart failure, it will require lifelong treatment to manage the condition. The heart can become stronger, especially with options such as repairing a malfunctioning heart valve or controlling arrythmia. In most patients, treatment for congestive heart failure involves a balance of medications and possibly devices to help the heart beat properly.
Medications — There are a wide variety of medications that have been developed to treat congestive heart failure — everything from enzyme inhibitors to beta blockers, aldosterone antagonists to digitalis. Each takes a different approach to solve specific issues with the patient.
Surgery — Surgery or procedures to implant cardiac devices may be necessary.
- Coronary bypass — Bypass surgery takes a healthy blood vessel from the leg, arm, or chest and connects it below and above the blocked artery or arteries in the heart, bypassing the blockage.
- Heart valve repair or replacement — When a heart valve is not functioning properly, it can be replaced or repaired.
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) — Similar to pacemakers, ICDs are implanted under the skin in the chest with wires leading into the heart. The ICD monitors the patient’s heart rhythm, and if it stops or beats at a dangerous pace, the ICD works to get the heart back in normal rhythm through electric shock or other means.
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) — When the lower chambers of the heart aren’t pumping in sync, a device called a biventricular pacemaker sends electrical signals into the ventricles. This makes these chambers contract in a more coordinated way.
- Ventricular assist devices (VADs) — These devices help pump blood from the lower chambers of the heart out to the rest of the body. These are often used for patients who are awaiting heart transplant.
- Heart transplant — When a patient’s heart is damaged to the degree that surgery and medications don’t help, the only option is a heart transplant. The diseased heart is replaced with a healthy donor heart.
What is Pulmonary Hypertension?
Pulmonary hypertension (PAH) is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries that run from the heart to the lungs. This is different from regular high blood pressure. With PAH, the tiny arteries in the patient’s lungs becomes narrow or blocked. It then becomes harder for blood to flow through them, which raises blood pressure in the lungs. The heart must work harder to pump blood through those affected arteries, and it eventually weakens. This can lead to heart failure.
What Are the Common Treatments for Pulmonary Hypertension?
There isn’t a cure for pulmonary hypertension, but treatment can improve symptoms and slow progression of the disease. It often takes trial and error to find the proper mix of drugs to help control the disease.
Medications — There are many different types of medications available to help improve pulmonary hypertension signs and symptoms. They include blood vessel dilators, calcium channel blockers, blood thinners, diuretics, and even drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Surgery — If medications aren’t having the proper effect, surgery may be necessary.
- Atrial septostomy — In this procedure, a surgeon creates an opening between the left and right chambers of the heart to relieve pressure on the right side of the heart.
- Lung or heart-lung transplant — Sometimes a lung or a heart-lung transplant may be necessary.