Asthma symptoms affect an estimated 26 million Americans, a total of 20 million adults and 6 million children. It is one of the most common chronic childhood illnesses, accounting for 13.8 million missed school days a year, and more than 14 million lost workdays for adults.
For years we have managed and controlled asthma with long-term control medicines to avoid asthma attacks, and quick-relief, or rescue, medicines to treat symptoms once they start. These treatments have typically worked well for most patients with mild to moderate asthma. However, up to 10% of people with this condition, these medicines were often not enough to control symptoms. Allergists now use a group of prescription drugs, called biologics, developed to treat difficult to control asthma.
How Do Biologic Treatments Work?
Biologics target the patient’s immune system to prevent an attack, rather than treating the symptoms. These are cutting edge therapies because they have the potential to be personalized to treat specific cells and/or antibodies which lead to allergic inflammation, and it is the inflammation that makes it hard for some people to breathe. There are biologic treatments available to treat both allergic asthma as well as eosinophilic asthma.
What Is Allergic Asthma?
Many people with asthma also have allergies. Allergies are responsible for triggering asthma symptoms in more than 75% of children and over half of adults with asthma. When allergens such as pollen, mold, pet dander, and dust trigger asthma symptoms, the diagnosis is allergic asthma. Biologics are the newest tool for patients with difficult to control asthma, but allergists also use allergen immunotherapy when treating allergic asthma. This therapy builds up the patient’s tolerance to an allergen which helps control the allergy symptoms that cause inflammation, and subsequently trigger asthma.
What Is Eosinophilic Asthma?
Eosinophilic asthma is a type of severe asthma that can cause swelling in the airways of your lungs, making it hard to breathe. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell which is generally associated with allergic-type inflammation. Your allergist will do blood tests to determine which biologic would be the most effective for your persistent uncontrolled asthma.
Physicians also can use biologics for the treatment of certain skin conditions such as Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU), or chronic hives, and moderate to severe atopic dermatitis or eczema.
Are You a Candidate for Biologics?
Consult the experts at Atlanta Allergy & Asthma to see if you are a candidate for one of these new biologic therapies for persistent asthma or for certain skin conditions.