In the United States, an estimated 25.7 million people have some form of asthma, and 15% of these people have severe asthma that is difficult to control with standard medication. Eosinophilic asthma is one such type of asthma. Eosinophilic asthma is a rare subtype and is often severe and usually comes on in adults. It is a result of an increase in the number of eosinophil (white blood cells) in the blood, lung tissue and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract. Eosinophil help causes swelling which in turn results in inflammation of the respiratory system, thus causing problems. Even though the symptoms are the same as other kinds of asthma such as coughing, tightness in the chest, etc., they tend to be more severe and persistent.
There are treatments specifically designed to target this subgroup. Bronchodilators or rescue medicines such as albuterol are necessary for all asthmatics. Most people benefit from albuterol nebulizer treatments.
Corticosteroids are maintenance drugs that help in breathing normally and keeping the asthma symptoms at bay. They prevent asthma attacks by preventing certain cells in the lungs and airways from releasing chemicals that cause asthma attacks. These are mostly inhaled, however, corticosteroid pills may work better in case of eosinophilic asthma.
New treatments called ‘Biologic Therapies’ are also being used to treat this condition. These manmade medicines act like human antibodies and are taken as shots or by intravenous infusion. They block the chemicals that cause lung inflammation.
Medications known as Leukotriene Antagonists are also used to reduce inflammation. Leukotrienes are chemicals in your immune system that cause asthma symptoms. They combine with the eosinophil to cause inflammation of the airways. Leukotriene modifiers such as montelukast (Singulair), zafirlukast (Accolate) and zileuton (Zyflo) ease the symptoms of asthma.
Bronchial Thermoplasty is an invasive procedure where bronchial smooth muscles are burned away by using thermal heat. Studies have shown that this improves asthma control in some patients, and maybe an option for anyone with steroid-refractory severe asthma.
Research continues towards understanding eosinophilic asthma better and finding better treatment options than relying on generic asthma guiding principles.