Life With Sputum

Have you ever stumbled about a picture in your camera reel and thought, "why do I have this?" I was recently looking for a photo I had taken and I came across a series of photos of my sputum.

thick yellow mucus in the contributor's handthick yellow mucus in the contributor's hand from a new angle

I have an interesting relationship with my sputum. During times of significantly uncontrolled asthma, I thought it possibly could be the death of me. It took me quite a while to get a good grasp on my mucus and sputum situation. While I am a pro at producing a decent sputum sample, I would have these times where I would feel like I was drowning in it and unable to keep up with clearing it.

Documenting my sputum

I know it sounds gross, but I figured if I have to live with this sputum then I want to be intimate with it, in terms of color, texture and feel. I also wanted to have photos to show my specialists and, honestly, sometimes you just cough up something that is super strange-looking and you just need a picture for research at a later date or to ask “Does this look weird to you?” I have been especially interested in researching mucus plugs and casts.

Understanding mucus hypersecretion

It was important for me to have a good handle on living with mucus hypersecretion. It has been a high-ranking complaint for a considerable amount of time and, unfortunately, researchers do not know exactly why some patients are more susceptible to producing or retaining mucus.1

Airway mucus is usually a gel-like substance in a mostly fluid-like state. Its role is to protect the airways, provide hydration, and clear inflammatory cells.2 When mucus retention occurs, plugs can form.2 Mucus plugs have some connections to airway obstruction. Although, more research is being conducted to examine the relationship of airway mucus plugs to eosinophilia and airway obstruction.3 Researchers have identified that mucus is related to the stimulation of bronchial epithelial cells by IL-4 and Il-13 cytokines.4 In particular, IL-13 has been connected to mucus hypersecretion.4

Staying ahead with airway clearance

I tried a few strategies from hypertonic saline to airway hygiene. I still do airway clearance to help me stay ahead of the game. I have been on a fairly decent regimen of keeping a good handle of my mucus through the use of a biologic and keeping a handle on my airway inflammation. This is where my clinical trial experience with anti IL4R began, as a way of having better asthma control and improving my mucus hypersecretion. I am happy to report that this has been a successful experience for me. While I do still have mucus issues, I have had an improvement in my quality of life with mucus hypersecretion.

More on this topic

Have you ever brought a photo of your mucus to your physician, did you or they find it helpful? My specialist is very enthusiastic about sputum, they are not at all squeamish about my photo journal of sputum. I have often wondered if I should do something with these photos, like an art project or quilt. I am not sure all of these times need to be remembered but they feel like part of me and my asthma story.

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