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Asthma

What is asthma?

People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs. When exposed to certain triggers their airways narrow, making it hard for them to breathe.

Three main factors cause the airways to become narrow:

  • The inside lining of the airways becomes red and swollen (inflammation)
  • Extra mucous (sticky fluid) may be produced
  • The muscle around the airways tightens (bronchoconstriction)

Why do people get asthma in the first place?

The causes of asthma are not really understood but there is often a family history of asthma, eczema or hayfever. Asthma can begin at any age and change over time.  Unborn babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy, and children exposed to smoke in early childhood, have a higher risk of developing childhood asthma.

How do you recognise asthma?

  • A dry, irritating, persistent cough, particularly at night, early morning, with exercise or activity
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheeze

Asthma triggers

  • Colds and flu
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Exercise/activity
  • Inhaled allergens (e.g. pollens, moulds, animal dander and dust mites)
  • Environmental (e.g. dust, pollution, wood smoke, bush fires)
  • Changes in temperature and weather
  • Certain medications (e.g. aspirin)
  • Chemicals and strong smells (e.g. perfumes, cleaners)
  • Emotional factors (e.g. laughter, stress)
  • Some foods and food preservatives, flavourings and colourings (uncommon)

Figures

Today we live in a community where:

  • Over 2 million Australians have asthma.
  • Approximately 15% of children have currently diagnosed asthma (or one in six children have currently diagnosed asthma).
  • Approximately 11% of adults have currently diagnosed asthma (or one in ten adults have currently diagnosed asthma).
  • Indigenous Australians have more problems with asthma than other Australians.
  • The majority of people with asthma do not have a written asthma action plan.
  • Many people with asthma who could benefit by using regular preventer medication are not using it.
  • Asthma is one of the most common reasons for hospital admissions in children.
  • 397 people died due to asthma in 2002.

Every person’s asthma is different. Not all people will have the same triggers, nor will they react to every trigger listed above. You may not always know what triggers your asthma. It is helpful to identify triggers in order to avoid them however this is not always possible (e.g. colds and flu).

Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can be very effective for respiratory disorders including Asthma. There are many studies relating to the success of acupuncture treatment for asthma which have been reported in the medical journals. (1)

In 1979 the World health Organisation listed 40 diseases for which acupuncture was considered to be beneficial and diseases of the respiratory tract including asthma and bronchitis were included in that list (2).

In a study conducted at the Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care in the University Hospital of Vienna revealed that over 70% of patients with long-standing asthma reported a significant improvement of their ailments after ten weeks of acupuncture treatment. (3)

Traditional Chinese Herbal Treatment

18/10/2005 - An oral combination of three Chinese herbal extracts: Ling-Zhi (Ganoderma lucidum), Ku-Shen (Radix Sophora flavescentis) and Gan-Cao (Radix Glycyrrhiza uralensis) could be as effective as conventional medicines at alleviating asthma symptoms but without such severe side effects, report Chinese and American researchers. Full details of this research article available here.

1990 - There has been one positive study involving a Chinese herb called Xifukang (a compound preparation of Chinese herbs) which was published in 1990. The results of treatment of 53 patients indicated that the clinical symptoms including cough, sputum production, chest pain, weakness, etc. were markedly improved and measurements of pulmonary function significantly enhanced . The researchers concluded that the therapeutic mechanism of Xifukang included promoting blood circulation to eliminate blood stasis, increasing ventilation, protecting dust-cells, resisting fibrosis, regulating immune function, enhancing lung clearance, and postponing and preventing development of silicosis. (4)

Advanced Practitioner Information:

The following information is suitable for students and practitioners of Acupuncure/TCM and contains content which requires advanced knowledge in this field.

> Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment for Asthma

References

© Copyright Asthma Foundations of Australia 2005 Reproduction for educational purposes is permitted. This resource satisfies the guidelines and standards approved by the National Asthma Council and Asthma Foundations of Australia.

(1) Aldridge d & Pietroni P (1987) Clinical assessment of Acupuncture in Asthma Therapy: a discussion paper. Journal of the Royal Soc of Med, 80, 222-4.
Jobst KA et al, (1986) Controlled trial of acupuncture for disabling breathlessness. Lancet 2, 1416-9.Fung KP et al (1986) Attenuation of exercise induced asthma by acupuncture Lancet 2, 1419-22.

(2) reported by Dr S Fulder MD in The Handbook of Complementary Medicine (Coronet).

(3) Beneficial effect of acupuncture on adult patients with asthma bronchiale.
Zwolfer W; Keznickl-Hillebrand W; Spacek A; Cartellieri M; Grubhofer G
Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, University of Vienna, Austria.
Am J Chin Med (UNITED STATES) 1993, 21 (2) p113-7

(4) [Clinical therapeutic effect of xifukang in 53 patients with silicosis]Ye Y; Wang X; Zhong Y. Yiyang Serpentine Mine Occupational Hospital, Jiangxi. Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih Jul 1990, 10 (7) p420-1, 389

 

Related research archive articles:

1.)  Effects of acupuncture at "Zusanli" (ST 36) on eosinophil apoptosis and related gene expression in rats with asthma

2.)  Considerations for Use of Acupuncture as Supplemental Therapy for Patients with Allergic Asthma.

3.)  Dorsal root ganglion: the target of acupuncture in the treatment of asthma.


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