A measure of how fast a person can exhale can now be used to predict the possibility of an asthma attack before a month using a mathematical tool. It is believed that this finding would help alleviate the suffering of asthma patients and lead to the development of better treatment strategies.
An internationally accepted system called the chaos model (currently applied to complex systems such as weather) has been applied in the evaluation of lung function. Although the pattern examined seemed to have a random nature, there was a hidden periodicity in the peak flow pattern of 80 patients studied over a month. This enabled calculation of asthma risk accurately.
It is currently possible to calculate the risk only after sufficient data has been attained regarding the number of asthma attacks, following long hours of observation. With this model, this long period of waiting would be minimized as it eliminates the need for a positive asthma episode.
Furthermore, it has been found that the asthma attacks were highly variable and random in patients with severe asthma. One probable reason behind this observation could be hypersensitivity of the airways even to minor environmental stimulus such as pollutants or allergens.
Surprisingly, lung function instability has been noted in individuals who use inhaler for asthma relief. Infact, regular use of the inhaler can predispose to an acute episode. The risk was further aggravated due to use of short-acting bronchodilators or beta agonists. This finding is clinically relevant because the frequent use of inhaler only reflects the need for an effective asthma control.
"There are around 5.2 million asthmatics in the country and half of them have severe asthma requiring frequent use of inhalers. The numbers of children with asthma have increased six fold in the last 30 years and six to seven people will die of asthma every 24 hours. The cost to the NHS is enormous - close to £890 million each year - so anything that will predict asthmatic attacks thereby allowing treatment to be given to prevent serious events occurring is a major step forward," said Tak Lee, an asthma expert.
This recent research that predicts the risk of an asthmatic attack is expected to revolutionize the treatment of asthma and lead to better treatment strategies in the years to come.