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Many Asthma Patients Don't Stick to Treatment Plan, Study Finds

Better communication with their doctors might improve outcomes, researchers say

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SATURDAY, Jan. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- If you can't get relief from your asthma, the way you communicate with your allergist might be part of the problem, according to two new studies.

The researchers said asthma patients need to ask questions and have open communication with their allergists for their treatment to be effective.

One study found that only 8 percent to 13 percent of asthma patients continue to refill inhaled corticosteroid prescriptions after one year. These medications, when taken early and as prescribed, may help improve asthma control, normalize lung function and possibly prevent permanent injury to the airways, the researchers said.

"When patients do not understand their condition or treatment plan, they may not follow life-saving guidelines, putting them at increased risk for asthma attacks," study author Dr. Stanley Fineman, former president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said in a college news release.

"Changes need to be made by allergists and patients to ensure a treatment plan is in place that will be followed," said Fineman, an allergist. "Proper treatment and adherence to the plan not only improves quality of life, but may save lives."

The second study found that young, black adults are particularly likely to not follow asthma treatment plans due to age and poor communication. Many of these patients also said they were uncomfortable taking the medication in public, the study found.

"Our research found many African-American asthma sufferers believed they had a better understanding of their asthma triggers and treatment as they reached young adulthood," senior study author Dr. Alan Baptist said in the news release.

"However, many do not manage their condition as advised, which can lead to increased asthma attacks and emergency-room visits," said Baptist, who also is an allergist. "Allergists need to communicate the importance of continuing medication, and patients should express any concerns they might have, such as taking medication in public, since there are often solutions."

"Providing adequate education and addressing specific barriers that young, African-American adults have in asthma management may decrease health care disparities and improve outcomes," he said.

Both studies were published in the January issue of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Asthma affects about 26 million Americans and causes about 4,000 deaths a year in the United States, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about asthma.

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