Living with a chronic condition such as asthma may mean that you are more likely to develop a related condition. It can also mean that if you contract certain other illnesses your asthma symptoms may be exacerbated.
In this article, we’ll discuss those conditions most commonly associated with asthma, and what you can do to reduce the effects of these.
Asthma and Eczema
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, refers to dry, itchy or red patches of skin that can affect any part of the body. In a similar manner to asthma, it can be triggered by the presence of allergens and is often diagnosed in childhood.
Both asthma and eczema are conditions that tend to run in families. There is no definitive clinical evidence to suggest that one condition causes the other, however one notable study has found that eczema combined with wheezing in childhood can cause an increased risk of developing asthma later in life.
There are several treatments available for those with eczema. If you are also being treated for asthma, your doctor will be able to advise you on using multiple medications at once.
Asthma and Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD)
GORD, more commonly referred to as heartburn or acid reflux, is a disorder of the digestive system by which stomach acid travels up into the oesophagus. According to Asthma UK asthmatics are twice as likely to develop this condition in comparison to those who do not have asthma.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology has theorised that this may be because asthma symptoms cause the valve in the lower oesophagus to relax too much, resulting in acid passing back up the tube.
Those living with GORD and asthma will be encouraged to keep both conditions under as much control as possible to try and limit symptoms. This might involve a combination of medication depending on the severity of each condition.
Asthma and Osteoporosis
Asthma causes inflammation in the airways and lungs and in many cases is treated with inhaled corticosteroid medication. All types of treatment come with the risk of side effects and this is also true of asthma medication.
Corticosteroids can cause a decrease in bone density and lead to osteoporosis, sometimes referred to as steroid-induced osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis tends to occur in susceptible individuals who use a high dose of this type of steroid over a long period of time.
Those at risk of developing this condition may be sent for a bone density (DEXA) scan, similar to an x-ray, to identify any bone loss. Supplementary calcium and vitamin D may also be prescribed to combat the effects.
Asthma and Cold and Flu
If you are asthmatic and contract a cold or influenza virus you are more likely to experience an asthma attack. Cold and flu viruses inflame the respiratory tracts, and this can be very serious for someone with asthma, who will already have sensitive airways.
Although we cannot fully protect ourselves from cold and flu viruses, there are precautions we can take to minimise the chances of catching either one of them:
- Keep your immune system working at its best by eating a varied diet, taking part in regular exercise and sleeping well.
- Wash your hands regularly. A simple but highly effective step. The viruses found in the cold and flu are often spread by touching infected surfaces and then touching your face. The virus can enter your body through the eyes, nose and mouth. When washing, use soap and water and try to avoid touching your face as much as possible afterwards.
- Speak to your healthcare provider about the influenza vaccination. The flu injection can protect against certain strains of the virus.
Asthma is a chronic condition which can leave you more vulnerable to developing other illnesses. It can also mean that if you become ill your symptoms may be more severe or lead to complications.
It is therefore important to keep your asthma under control by attending regular reviews with your doctor or asthma nurse.
If you have any concerns about any other health conditions you should speak to your healthcare professional.