What Does Reversible Mean?

So, you often hear that asthma is reversible. What does this mean anyway? Here’s what to know.

Does it mean there is a cure for asthma?

No. There is no cure for asthma. Asthma the disease is chronic. This means that it’s always there. The disease of asthma does not go away. It is not reversible. There is no cure for asthma. This is not what is meant when we say asthma is reversible.

So, then why do they say ‘asthma is reversible?’

Well, to understand why they say this you have to understand asthma’s long history. You see, for most of history, asthma WAS the symptom. The ancient Greeks came up with the term asthma. It means short, gasping breaths. If you were short of breath, you were diagnosed with asthma. So, for most of history, your symptom was your disease. Even if you had heart failure, even if you had COPD, even if you had cystic fibrosis, you were diagnosed with asthma. This is because doctors didn’t know about all these diseases. If you were short of breath, you simply had asthma. It was that simple.

Are you saying asthma is not a disease?

No. Today researchers have defined the disease asthma. It’s a disease associated with chronic underlying airway inflammation. This makes airways twitchy. Exposure to asthma triggers causes asthma symptoms. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. So, asthma is a disease. Its symptoms are intermittent and vary in severity.

So, what does reversible mean then?

It means that asthma SYMPTOMS are completely or almost completely reversible. This is unlike COPD, where some symptoms are experienced even on good COPD days. Some COPDers may feel some shortness of breath even on good COPD days. Asthma is not like that. Asthma attacks, asthma symptoms, are reversible. This means that lung function may be normal or near normal between attacks.

How is asthma reversible?

Worded a better way: How are asthma symptoms reversed? If you could get people to word it this way, I think it would make more sense. But, because of our long history, most experts still say ‘Asthma is reversible.” They say this even though asthma itself is not reversible, only the symptoms are. But, it is what it is.

So, how are asthma symptoms reversed?

They are reversed with either time or treatment. Sometimes asthma attacks go away just by getting away from whatever is triggering it. For instance, you are camping and exposed to wood smoke. So, getting out of the campground may reverse your symptoms. Often, however, reversing it requires asthma medicines. Asthma rescue medicine is very good at reversing asthma attacks. There are also other medicines that may reverse them, such as systemic corticosteroids.

Can asthma be controlled?

Yes. Because asthma (symptoms) is (are) reversible, it (they) can also be prevented. This can be accomplished by working with your doctor, managing your asthma triggers, and sometimes taking asthma controller medicines. So, this is one of the things that makes asthma neat, is that its symptoms can be reversed. They can be prevented. Asthma itself can be controlled.

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