Margaret, age 62, was diagnosed with asthma at age 47. She is white British, married and worked as a statistician before retirement. Margaret had had a persistent cough for some time, and one day started feeling so breathless that she went to the hospital where she was told she had pneumonia, and was also suffering from asthma. At first she wasn’t using the inhalers correctly and her condition was often unstable, but after a time she became more knowledgeable about how to manage the condition more effectively and is now rarely bothered by her asthma.
Margaret had been suffering from a persistent cough that she hadn’t been able to shake off for a while and one day found herself feeling very breathless. Things became so difficult that she was taken to hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia, but she was also diagnosed with asthma. Margaret felt quite upset at first to have been diagnosed with asthma because up until then she had been very fit and healthy and had always made a point of living a very healthy lifestyle. In the first few years after diagnosis Margaret says she didn’t manage her condition very well, and in retrospect realises that she hadn’t been shown how to use the inhaler correctly and so wasn’t getting enough of the inhaled steroids to keep her stable. At that time she would intermittently need to go to the GP for a course of oral steroids to help stabilise her condition and she describes her asthma at that time as being mild to moderate.
A few years ago she had what she calls a cataclysmic asthma attack’ where she was rushed in to hospital as an emergency and was in a life threatening situation for a short while. After this she was prescribed a new combined inhaler Symbicort, which she feels has been far more effective in managing her condition. Since then she feels that her asthma is much better controlled and she now describes her condition as mild to moderate. She hasn’t had to use oral steroids at all for the last 3 years, which she feels indicates that she is now managing things much more effectively. Her self -management techniques include ensuring that she uses the inhalers in the correct way and to always take the medication even if she is feeling well. She also takes regular exercise and feels that helps to keep her lungs functioning as well as possible.
Margaret feels that initially she wasn’t given all that much information or support from health professionals in that after her diagnosis she was left to get on with things herself and hadn’t been taught how to use the inhalers properly. It was only some years later when she attended a talk by a nurse who has asthma herself who was demonstrating how to use an inhaler that she realised that her technique wasn’t quite right.
Although she accepts that asthma is a condition she is likely to have for the rest of her life, Margaret is more confident about managing it nowadays, and recently has been able to slowly start to reduce her medication, with the intention or aim of being on the lowest dose possible to keep her stable.
Margaret isn’t able to say what her triggers are. She has had allergy tests but not pinpointed anything in particular that triggers her asthma. Nevertheless she ensures that things in the house are as clean and dust free as possible just to minimise any possible irritants.
Although she has had her peak flow tested at times when her asthma has been less stable she feels that the peak flow measure isn’t always a good indicator of lung function as she is aware that although hers is low on the scale generally she is still able to swim and function even though her reading would be seen by doctors as being too low but she feels that she is a good judge of how her own body feels and so isn’t too focused on worrying about what her peak flow measure is.
Margaret takes a positive approach to life and has learned how to successfully manage and control her asthma so that nowadays it doesn’t interfere with her life.