Asthma Control: Know Your Score

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Pittsburgh Steelers' All-Pro running back Jerome "The Bus" Bettis knows firsthand what can happen when your asthma gets out of control. Bettis and Norman Edelman, MD, from the American Lung Association, joined us on March 30, 2005 to answer quesitons about your asthma control rates and how you can improve it.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Welcome to WebMD Live, gentlemen. Thank you for joining us today.

Thank you for having us.

It's a pleasure to be here.

Jerome, you thought you had your symptoms under control for years. Then in 1997, in a nationally televised game, you suffered a severe asthma attack. What happened?

The asthma went uncontrolled for so long. I thought everything was fine. The game was a very, very humid and hot game, and it caused me to have an asthma attack on the field. It was a very frightening experience, to say the least. From that day, I have been dedicated to asthma and asthma awareness and trying to get the message out, which brings us to the Asthma Control Test.

"The American Lung Association wants everybody with asthma to know that many of them can and should feel better than they do."

Dr. Edelman, tell us about the Asthma Control Test.

The American Lung Association wants everybody with asthma to know that many of them can and should feel better than they do. The way to start is by taking the Asthma Control Test, understanding how well you're doing and understanding what can be improved.

The Asthma Control Test is five simple questions: It asks:

  • If you miss work or school because of your asthma.
  • If you're awakened at night because of the asthma.
  • How long you've used your medications.
  • If you wheeze or cough during the day.
  • If you feel generally well and how controlled your asthma is.

Based on the results, the person with asthma can get a sense of whether they are functioning as well as they should be, which should be close to absolutely normal.

Whatever the score, they should take the results of the test to their physician and discuss it. And it may be -- it's likely to be actually -- that the physician and the patient with asthma will find ways to improve their care. This may involve adjustment of medications; it may involve a modification of the asthma action plan, such as better strategies to avoid triggers. It may be found in many cases that people's asthma control can be improved.

Do many people with asthma think they have better control of their asthma than they really do?

Yes. In a recent survey we found that many people with asthma felt they had satisfactory control when they actually don't. And what we found also, and this is very important, is that there's very poor communication. People with asthma don't communicate their problems to their doctors and children with asthma don't communicate their problems to their parents. It's an all-around lack of communication and lack of understanding. Most people with asthma should be able to do virtually anything they want to do.

The misconception of people with asthma is, I am an asthmatic, so part of my frequent symptoms are normal - the coughing, the wheezing, waking up in the middle of the night and using my inhaler more than twice a week. We assume that is normal because we are asthmatic.

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