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Breathing Easier: Report Suggests Overweight Asthma Sufferers Could Benefit From Bariatric Surgery

Statistics tell us nearly 40 percent of Americans are obese. Obesity can lead to more serious conditions including asthma. According to an article appearing in Lung Disease News by Dr. Daniela Semedo, 26 million Americans suffer from asthma and many of those developed asthma due to the unhealthy weight gain. We are learning that there may be a relationship between a decrease in the severity of asthma and weight loss.

In a recent study titled “Risk of an asthma exacerbation after bariatric surgery in adults” published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in February, bariatric surgery reduces the risk of an emergency room visit or hospitalization in obese patients for asthma exacerbation, suggesting effectiveness of weight loss on asthma morbidity.

Asthma exacerbation or an asthma attack occurs when the bronchial tubes suddenly tighten, restricting the flow of air to the lungs. Those with asthma are at risk of an asthma exacerbation when their lungs and airways begin to overreact to certain things that trigger these attacks.

During an asthma exacerbation the lining of the airways will suddenly become swollen and inflamed. The muscles of these airways will tighten up and the production of mucus will increase. This combination makes the openings much narrower and can almost close them altogether, making breathing hard. A severe asthma attack can result in death if untreated as the person will eventually be unable to breathe.

Previous studies have shown associations between obesity and the development of asthma, risk of exacerbations, and higher risk of hospitalization, making it a problem in asthma management and in overall healthcare. Little is known about links between the alleviation of morbidities of asthma and weight loss.

The current study examined whether the reduction of exacerbation associated with asthma and weight loss from bariatric surgery are associated. The researchers conducted self-controlled case series studies of 2,261 obese patients with asthma aged 18 to 54 years, and elected bariatric surgery using the population-based emergency room and inpatient sample in California, Florida and Nebraska.

The study’s primary focus was on emergency room visit or hospitalization due to patients suffering asthma exacerbation from 2005 through 2011. The researchers then compared each patient’s risk of experiencing an asthma attack 13-24 months before the surgery, with the risk 12 months after the procedure.

Results showed 13 to 24 months before surgery, 22 percent of patients needed at least one emergency room visit or hospitalization for asthma exacerbation. One year after surgery the risk of an emergency room visit or hospitalization for asthma exacerbation declined to 10.9 percent of patients and remained the same two years later.

The study also indicated bariatric surgery decreases asthma severity. It has been found most patients requiring steroids to control their asthma prior to weight-loss surgery were able to stop taking steroids within 18 months after their surgery

“Because the benefit of bariatric surgery might be offset by the initial high cost and risks of surgical complications, our finding also emphasizes the importance of safe, effective, nonsurgical approaches to achieve major weight loss, which would likely benefit millions of obese patients with asthma,” the study concluded. The apparent link between the alleviation of asthma and weight loss is something to consider if you have a body mass index of 30 or more and suffer from asthma.

Visit our ‘Is Weight Loss Surgery Right For Me?’ page to learn more about whether weight loss surgery may be right for you.

Call us at 727.289.7137 to learn more about associations between the alleviation of asthma and weight loss and what that may mean for you.

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