MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Increasing Asthma Hospitalisation in Asia Has Researchers Curious about its Cause

asthma dr beltran

Asthma stands as one of the primary causes of death among chronic respiratory diseases, yet there is a scarcity of appropriate treatment and services tailored to Asians.

The prevalence of non-smokers having lifetime respiratory diseases draws the curiosity of researchers. For instance, many non-smoker Singaporeans have been diagnosed with lifelong respiratory issues. In response, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) launched a research centre called The Academic Respiratory Initiative for Pulmonary Health Center for Respiratory Research Excellence (TARIPH Center). 

Role of TARIPH Centre

The new research center comprises experts dedicated to seeking treatment and prevention strategies tailored to the Asian population. The pioneering centre will focus on improving and analysing lung health correlated to the impacts of climate change.

Initiating the research will be Singapore’s first panel of patients with existing respiratory diseases. The volunteers will provide their experiences in detail to help researchers address the right treatment suitable to their situation.

Impacts of Asthma

One of the leading disabilities due to respiratory disease is asthma. Observation in Singapore showed that asthma has been significant even in people considered to be non-smokers. Further understanding this issue, Associate Professor Sanjay H. Chotirmall, a head of TARIPH centre stated that environmental triggers can be one of the factors that contribute to asthma attacks in non-smokers. 

Why care about asthma?

Asthma affected an estimated 262 million people worldwide in 2019, causing a total of 455,000 deaths. Consequently, these deaths occur primarily in low to middle-income countries. In these countries, asthma often goes under-diagnosed, resulting in severe complications and a rising number of fatalities.

Asthma and its causes

The condition is defined as chronic inflammation of the lung airways. This causes patients to have narrow and swollen airways which “spasm” or involuntarily contract. Added to this is the increase in the production of mucus or phlegm.

Multiple factors contribute to the increased risk of developing asthma.

  • Family history (usually from close relatives)
  • Presence of other allergic conditions (e.g. eczema, rhinitis)
  • Urbanisation
  • Events in early life (Overall development in the womb, e.g. low birth weight and lung development)
  • Exposure to allergens and irritants
  • Obesity

Reminders from a Doctor

Dr. Reymond John L. Beltran, Medical Officer III at Rizal Medical Center, shared some concrete and straightforward advice on managing asthma for people living in Asia. He noted that “Asthma is characterised by coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. It is common among people with both personal and family history of any form of asthma or allergies.”

Furthermore, he gave tips on how to address asthma. He shared, “Best to avoid triggers like smoking, or being around smokers, strong scents, and allergens. I also advise family members to quit any kind of habit of smoking or vaping. Unfortunately, there is no cure for asthma, only maintenance medications for symptoms and control. To reduce severity, always take these medications as prescribed. If the symptoms persist despite the medications, visit your doctor for medication adjustment to control the symptoms.”

Hope for a new future

Establishing a new research centre addressing respiratory diseases in the context of Asia can make a significant breakthrough in healthcare in the region. Therefore, the TARIPH center aims to mark a milestone in the discovery of new treatments and services as it deepens its understanding of how genetics and climate change contribute to an individual’s lung health

To know more about lung health…

Asthma: Uncovering Misconceptions

World Asthma Day: Top 5 Celebrities Defying Asthma Stereotypes

Haze Returns to Malaysia and Indonesia, Causes Alarm

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