Peter, age 62, was diagnosed with asthma at age 45. He is white British and married with two adult children. He is a retired IT professional. Peter’s symptoms vary in severity, sometimes mild, and at other times quite debilitating. For around nine months of the year Peter says he feels fine and can do more or less what he wants to do, but there are times when the asthma is more severe and his life becomes more restricted
Peter was diagnosed with asthma when he was 45. At the time he had a chest infection for which he was prescribed antibiotics, but the infection didn’t seem to go away. After trying several types of antibiotics which didn’t seem to work his doctor said he thought it could be asthma. He was given a reliever inhaler which seemed to help and over the next four or five years the asthma didn’t affect him too much, however more recently it has gradually deteriorated.
Now, Peter’s symptoms vary in severity, sometimes mild, and at other times quite debilitating. For around nine months of the year Peter says he feels fine and can do more or less what he wants to do, but there are times when the asthma is more severe and his life becomes more restricted. Symptoms typically involve tightness in the chest, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath He finds that the shortness of breath and coughing trouble him most because they prevent him from carrying on a normal life and also when he is unwell his sleep is disrupted because of the coughing. Lack of sleep can exacerbate things because it can be stressful, which in its turn can worsen the asthmatic symptoms. Peter’s main trigger is when he gets a cold or chest infection and at these times he needs to increase the dosage of his medication in order to manage and control the asthma. For the past couple of years Peter has gained the confidence to self- manage his condition which he finds helpful because it eliminates the need for frequent visits to the GP and he feels more in control of his own life. For much of the time Peter is able to continue the active lifestyle he enjoys and is still able to participate in activities such as hill walking and skiing, but there are times when he needs to take things more easy.
Peter’s medication has been reviewed and modified regularly since he was first diagnosed. He currently uses a combined preventative inhaler called Symbicort which he takes four puffs of morning and evening. In the evenings he also uses Singilair which works to help reduce inflammation of airways. In the mornings he also takes Nasonex which treats rhinitis, which is another condition that people with asthma often suffer from. Peter records his peak flow measure on a daily basis, so that when he isn’t feeling well he can tell whether he needs to adjust the dosage of his medications. More recently he has gained the confidence to self manage his asthma without always having to consult the GP. He does this by following the care plan his GP has given him and he knows that if the peak flow measurement goes below a certain point he can begin to take oral steroids (prednisolone) in addition to his inhalers. Usually when this happens the prednisolone stabilises his condition over a couple of weeks. He also takes medication which increases the calcium uptake in the bones (alendronic acid tablets) to help prevent him from developing osteoporosis as this could potentially be a problem in the future as a possible side effect from long-term use of high dosages of cortico-steroids.
Peter has also learned how to differentiate between the symptoms of a chest infection and asthma, because they can be similar, by examining the colour of the phlegm that he coughs up, so that he knows whether to begin taking antibiotics, or whether he needs to step up his asthma medication. This makes life easier and more convenient for Peter and he also feels it’s more effective because he doesn’t have to wait until he can see the doctor and can start taking the medication straight away. Managing his own condition gives Peter a sense of control over his asthma, but he says it can take a while to learn to understand your own body in order to know how to manage things effectively. Before he was diagnosed Peter knew very little about asthma and was surprised to find out that it can be life threatening.