Annual Asthma Report Card

It’s been almost a year since Ive updated my asthma status. Here’s the latest report card. For the year, I give myself a C +

In general my lung function has only declined a couple percent which is good. The problem of course, is that when you’re down in the lower ranges like I am, even the slightest change can have a huge impact on the way you feel. My baseline FEV1 now ranges from 33-42%, compared to 36-47% a year ago.

Probably the most noticeable change, and my biggest complaint by far, is that I get short of breath much faster now when engaging in even mild physical activity. Magnify that 3 or 4 fold when I do activities like racewalking or marathon walking.

My dependence on opiates and anxiolytics to quell my breathlessness keeps growing. Where I used to only take these drugs occasionally, I now take them on a daily basis.
The good news is that they do help and have probably kept me out of the hospital on more than on occasion.

My medical establishment labels are unchanged ( no big surprise there). Under the GINA guidelines, I’m still labeled a severe persistent asthmatic. Under the brand new SARP phenotypes for severe asthmatics, I’m labeled a Catagory/Cluster 5, Childhood onset asthmatic. ( Thank you Dr Wenzel)

    Symptoms

  • I’m pretty much short of breath to some degree all the time now (even when I’m in my green zone). Most of the time it doesn’t bother me because I’m used to it. But in addition to the low level chronic breathlessness, I’ve also been getting these short, but very intense bouts of dyspnea which seem to spring out of nowhere. The sensation is like that of sudden suffocation. It’s like someone put a bag over my head. It feels like my respiratory muscles are too weak to expand my lungs when I take a breath in. The sensation makes me anxious, which then perpetuates this viscous cycle of not being able to catch my breath. It’s awful. This video ,which Ive used before in my blog posts, does a great job of depicting what these intense mini attacks kinda feel like. The only difference is that I don’t struggle the way the actor does in the clip.
    Thankfully these bouts only last an hour or two and are usually relieved with meditative breathing, multiple back to back neb treatments and sometimes opiates. Unfortunately, these intense flares seem to be occurring more frequent now….almost daily. They’re probably a result of declining lung volumes and increased sensitivity to air-trapping.
  • For the last 6 months I’ve also noticed a slight, but persistent audible insp wheeze when I breath. Hence, the “Inhaler voice” It’s more annoying than anything else, but I hate the way it makes my voice sound. ENT actually checked my vocal cords and they look fine ( no stenosis)
  • It’s becoming increasingly more difficult for me to sleep laying flat. I now have to pretty much sleep with my back propped up, almost to a sitting position. Last year I switched from a conventional bed to a foam bed, which helped ease my lower back pain.
  • A noticeable decreasing tolerance to exercise and physical exertion in general. I get winded much easier now when I do any type of exercise or walks.

Incarcerations

  • 2 hospital admissions so far this year, totaling 12 days. 8 of those in the ICU, and 2 of those on a ventiltor.
  • Ive had one intubation this year, bringing my lifetime total to 16 ( we’re talking Ripleys Believe it or not stuff)
    Fitness and Diet

  • Despite my worsening dyspnea, I still force myself to walk at least 4 days a week ( 4-6 miles per walk) and even farther when I’m training for a race.
  • Earlier this month, I switched to an all organic diet. Additionally, Ive cut my sugar intake in half and eliminated HFCS almost completely. It’s way too soon to see how much of an impact this new way of eating will have on my health in general, but I suspect it will eventually be a positive one. How could it not.
    Treatment Plans

  • My Asthma action plan and medication list are pretty much unchanged, except that I take methadone (10mg) every evening now. [UPDATE—Methadone discontinued on Feb 3rd 2011]
    New Treatment Options

  • Bronchial Thermoplasty is no longer an option for me. My asthma is too severe, my lungs are too scarred. I don’t have much smooth muscle left to shrink. (* Speaking of Bronchial Thermoplasty, this is one of better articles Ive read on the subject. It’s objective, factual and well written)
  • I’m waiting for clinical trials to begin ( hopefully by this time next year) on some new Th2 (IL-4/IL-13) blocking drugs.

    Th2 blocking drugs (if they turn out to work), block protein factors related to, but not the same thing as, allergy. These blockers are believed to work “higher up” on the immune inflammatory cascade (where things are getting started) so that they “could” block more things of relevance to asthma. I have a problem with mucus blocking my tiniest airways, which causes me to air trap. (air trapping is the number 1 cause of my suffering). We’re hoping that this new class of drugs might help with that. ( per Dr Sally Wenzel)

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5 Comments

  1. Brittney says:

    Thanks for the link to the SARP phenotypes it was an interesting read. I'm interested in finding out how the diet changes help your overall health status.

  2. rick frea says:

    Thanks for the update. I'm sure there are many asthmatics who benefit from what you do here on this blog.

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