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What is Asthma?

Asthma is a very common long-term condition that is caused by inflammation of the airways. It causes coughing, breathlessness and wheezing and affects 5.4 million people in the UK. The severity of asthma can vary enormously from person to person and it can be life threatening, but for many people, their asthma can be well controlled much of the time by prescribed medication.

If you have well-controlled asthma, then the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service can act as a safe and convenient alternative source of your prescribed medications. Our UK registered GP will review your case and can prescribe a repeat prescription if appropriate.

You should still continue to see your GP for an annual asthma review.

What are the causes of Asthma?

The underlying cause of asthma is inflammation of the airways. The small tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs become sensitive to “trigger” factors that cause the airways to narrow and become full of sticky mucus or phlegm. This makes breathing more difficult, with wheezing and coughing and a feeling of tightness in the chest.

An asthma attack happens when a trigger factor causes a sudden onset of these symptoms. Such an asthma attack can be very dangerous. Some people have long-term asthma that means long-term narrowing of the airways is present.

The trigger factors vary from person to person and in many cases cannot be avoided as they are a part of everyday life. Many people with asthma have more than one trigger. Common trigger factors are house dust mites, animal fur, pollen, smoke, exercise, cold air and infections.

The actual cause of the increase in sensitivity of the airways is not totally understood. It is known to run in families and so is at least in part to do with your genetic makeup.

If you smoke, then you should consider stopping. Smoking damages the lungs and can make asthma worse. Click here for more information about how to stop smoking and here for more information from the NHS Choices website.

What treatments are available for Asthma?

Asthma cannot be cured, so the main aims of treatment are to prevent symptoms and future asthma attacks, and to relieve the symptoms of asthma should they occur. The medicines that are used in asthma are usually divided into “preventers” and “relievers”.

In most cases, the medicines are inhaled so they take effect directly in the lungs. It is very important that the inhaler is correctly used to ensure the medicine does make it into the lungs. Even experienced users of inhalers should review their “inhaler technique” on a regular basis as bad habits are easy to pick up and important steps easy to forget. Good inhaler technique is well summarised by Asthma UK on their website.

Preventer medicines are taken on a regular basis, usually every day. They should be taken even if your asthma is well controlled as they are there to ensure that you avoid symptoms as much as possible and avoid asthma attacks in the future. The effect of these medicines builds up over time so it’s important to keep taking them even when you feel well. Preventer medicines do not give immediate help if you are having an asthma attack. Common examples of preventer medicines are:

Clenil Clenil Beclometasone
Flixotide Flixotide Fluticasone
Pulmicort Pulmicort Budesonide
QVAR QVAR Beclometasone
Seretide Seretide Fluticasone and Salmeterol
Serevent Serevent Salmeterol
Symbicort Symbicort Budesonide and Formoterol

Reliever medicines are taken to quickly relieve the symptoms of asthma or in an asthma attack. Everyone who has asthma should always have their reliever inhaler with them. If you are using your reliever inhaler more than three times a week, your asthma is not as well controlled as it should be and so you should visit your doctor or asthma nurse for a review to see how this can be improved. Some common reliever medicines are:

Airomir Airomir Salbutamol
Bricanyl Bricanyl Terbutaline
Ventolin Ventolin Salbutamol

If you have well-controlled asthma, then the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service can act as a safe and convenient alternative source of your prescribed medications. One of our UK registered GPs will review your case and can prescribe a repeat prescription if appropriate.

In order to prescribe you asthma treatment, we will require your GP details. We will inform your GP that we have prescribed you asthma treatment (and which treatment we have provided), and any subsequent times when it is prescribed to you. This is to allow your own doctor to safely monitor your asthma and your treatment. Our service does not replace your own GP asthma review. Unfortunately, we cannot prescribe asthma treatment without consent to contact your GP.