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July 3, 1998     Cape Gazette
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July 3, 1998

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CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, July 3 - July 9, 1998. 41 For many, new medications prevent asthma attacks By Kerry Kester New medications for asthmatic patients can allow those who suf- fer from the pulmonary disease more freedom from the attacks that make it difficult for them to breathe and can threaten their lives. Until the past year in the United States, physicians were able to treat asthmatics only for the symptoms of their disease, said Dr. Ercilla Arias. "The step that we just made is huge," said Arias. The new medications, she said, can serve to prevent people from having attacks. The drugs have been used in Europe for about five years, she said, but it has been only the last year to 13 months that they have been available in the United States. Although the breakthrough in the treatment is not a cure, Arias said scientists took a step closer to finding a cure with the discovery of the medications, because it led them closer to finding what causes the disease. Asthma has two components, she said. The first is bron- chospasm, when the lungs be- come tight. The second is inflam- mation, which is a reaction to a particular trigger, such as smoke, for example. The new medica- tions treat the inflammation. "We know that if we can con- trol the inflammation, we can con- trol the other component,!' said Arias. Most asthma attacks are triggered by something. "Asthma is more like a reaction to a trigger and most of the time, you don't know what is a triggering factor," said Arias. Once the trigger factors get to the airways, said Arias, sub- stances in the lungs are produced, causing bronchospasms. Swelling closes the lining of the airways, and secretions can begin to block the already narrowed airways. Unfortunately, asthma is on the rise with young people, and the new drugs are not yet available for small children. However, she not- ed, many small children have a type of asthma that they eventual- ly outgrow. "Asthma definitely can be quite aggressive," said Arias. What is difficult for youngsters is that they find it difficult to restrain their ac- tivities. "When you're young, you want to do a lot of sports and heavy activi- ties," she said. "There's an in- crease in young people dying from asthmatic attacks, throughout the country," said ARIAS Arias. "It's quite alarming." However, she said, patients are often able to begin using the new medications in the teen years, those years when young people tend to become most involved in activities such as athletics. "There are side effects, but it's like any medication you take, the benefits can outweigh the side ef- fects," said Arias. The new medications are not for acute conditions, she said. "They're more for keeping the asthma under control and for pre- vention." The research shows that those who use the medications have fewer attacks than those who do not. "And like any other medicaton, it works in some people but in others it doesn't," said Arias. "But so far, we' ve had some good results." Arias, a board certified internist and puimonologist, is board eligi- ble for critical care. As a doctor of internal medicine, she may see patients as a primary care physi- cian. She was drawn to the Cape Re- gion because of its need for more physicians who speak Spanish. A native of the Dominican Republic, Arias is bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English fluently. Arias, who practices with Dr. Pedro Cardona, earned a medical degree from the Universidad Na- cional Pedro Henriquez Urena in the Domincan Republic. In addition to her training there, she completed a residency at A1- legheny, and a four-year fellow- ship at Mount Sinai Medical Cen- ter in New York, where she stud- ied pulmonary and critical care. She completed her residency in internal medicine at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia. To make an appointment, call 645-1192. Why get your magnetic resonance scan in a tunnel, when you can have a state of the art OPEN MRI? Locations in Dover, Milford, Lewes and Seaford. 0cus on Health Sleep disorders topic of July 7 seminar A free Focus on Health seminar, "I Can't Sleep; I Can't Stay Awake," will be held at 6:30 p.m., Tues- day, July 7, at the Lewes Public Library. Dr. Michael Salvatore, a pulmonologist and spe- cialist for sleep disorders, will discuss insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness. To register, call 645-3332. SALVATORE