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Unnecessary suffering that Welsh asthmatics could do more to avoid.

Byline: By Madeleine Brindley Western Mail

An astonishing two-thirds of asthma sufferers in Wales do not have the disease under control. The startling finding means that tens of thousands of people in Wales are suffering from frequent attacks which are limiting their everyday life. The sheer number of people who have not got their asthma under control were revealed in Asthma UK's first census, which was launched on World Asthma Day in May this year.

The Asthma Control Test, a 60-second, five-point questionnaire was completed online by more than 16,000 people in the UK, almost 900 of whom were from Wales.

The test which gives a score out of 25, helps to identify the level of asthma control.

The results also highlighted that more than a third of adults in Wales experienced shortness of breath on a daily basis and again, for one in five, using their reliever inhaler more than three times a day was a regular occurrence.

Asthma UK said that this is a clear indication that their asthma is not under control as asthma management guidelines state that a person's asthma is not well managed if they use their reliever inhaler more than three times a week.

Professor Martyn Partridge, chief medical adviser for Asthma UK, said, 'The results of this census highlight that a high proportion of people in the UK are putting up with unnecessary symptoms on a daily basis.

'They could be getting a better night's sleep, going about their everyday life without thinking about their asthma and using their reliever inhaler far less.

'With simple and safe medication, their asthma could be under control.'

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterised by breathing problems and symptoms such as breathlessness, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.

When asthma is not under control, the airways of the lungs are thick, swollen, and inflamed. The airways become overly sensitive to environmental changes, and an asthma attack can happen easily.

During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways swells, muscles around the airways tighten, and mucus clogs the tiny airways in the lungs, making breathing difficult.

Rates of asthma in Wales are among the highest in the world, and more than 260,000 people live with the condition.

Wales has 4,439 hospital admissions for asthma a year, and has the highest proportion of children under 14 being admitted to hospital for asthma in the UK.

The census further revealed that as a person got older their asthma worsened.

For those that completed the test, scores decreased for the older age groups and showed that for many, being woken at night or earlier in the morning with asthma symptoms such as coughing or wheezing, was a regular occurrence.

A spokeswoman for Asthma UK said, 'We recommend that people with the condition eat a healthy balanced diet, take regular exercise, and recognise and avoid the 'triggers' that can irritate the airways and cause the symptoms of asthma.

'The first step is to realise that having symptoms is not inevitable, and then to see their doctor, nurse or pharmacist for optimisation of therapy and a written personal asthma action plan.' And Prof Partridge added, 'I would advise making an appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse so that they can have an asthma review.

'The ultimate aim should be that you control your asthma, and not that it controls you.': 'Wake-up call to smokers':At least a quarter of long-term smokers will develop the incurable lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a study suggests. COPD describes a range of conditions, including bronchitis and emphysema, which make it difficult to breathe. More than 8,000 people aged 30 to 60 were studied by UK and Danish researchers for 25 years in the Thorax study.At the end of the study, the researchers found that at least 25% of the smokers without any initial symptoms of the disease had 'clinically significant' COPD, while up to 40% had some signs of the condition. Over the 25 years, 2,900 people died, including 109 from COPD. A spokesman for the British Lung Foundation said the study should act as a 'wake-up call' to smokers.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 23, 2006
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