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Wed, March 20

The crossover between asthma and mental health

The Arizona Department of Health Services website features quarterly initiatives that address a physical health issue in combination with a mental health issue. One of the topics they address at www.azdhs.gov/bhs centers on asthma and how it can be connected to and impacted by one's mental health.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes breathing difficult for 26 million Americans, including more than 7 million children. While the inflammation underlying asthma is always present, the breathing problems associated with the disease are episodic; that's why it is commonly experienced as "asthma attacks." An asthma attack constricts airways, causing wheezing and difficulty breathing.

The stress of living with asthma has been linked to depression in adults, and one study found that an improvement in symptoms of depression tracked an improvement in asthma symptoms and decreased use of asthma medications.

Asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization among children under 15.

Children with asthma, particularly children those who are hospitalized for asthma, are more likely to have an anxiety disorder. Children with asthma are also at increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and learning disabilities.

With any drug or class of drugs, there can be side-effects. And treatments for asthma can have impacts on mental health that the patient or parent may not have considered:

• Anti-inflammatory inhalers and other steroids commonly used to treat asthma may have the side effect of causing depression.

• Non-steroid asthma drugs may cause irritability, depression and thoughts of suicide.

• Beta-blockers, sometimes used to treat anxiety, may worsen the symptoms of asthma.

• Consult with your doctor; he or she needs to know about all the drugs you are taking to better help you treat your asthma and other illnesses.

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