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Treating Asthma: Personalized Medicine

Are you getting care that's right for your body, your age, and your background?

Becoming a Proactive Asthma Patient

Keep in mind that getting a personalized treatment plan for your asthma isn't just your doctor's responsibility. You have an important role to play too. "People really need to be proactive patients," says Bernstein.

Blaiss agrees. "Patients have to partner up with their doctors if they want to get the best care," he tells WebMD.

Being a partner in your health care requires some work on your part. Most important, you have to be sure to give your doctor all of the relevant information. A lot of people forget -- or don't bother -- to mention to their doctor that they had changes in their asthma symptoms.

"If the doctor doesn't know that your symptoms have changed, he might just keep refilling the old prescriptions, even if they're not helping," says Blaiss.

So before your next appointment -- prepare. Take a hard, objective look at your health. Since your recollection may not be totally accurate, you might want to start keeping a journal of your symptoms.

Keep track of any asthma attacks and any potential triggers that you are aware of. And also write down how often you're having attacks during the night or while exercising. If you have nighttime symptoms more than twice a month you may need a change in your treatment.

Also, monitor how often you use your inhalers. If you're using your quick relief inhalers more than two days per week, you may need different medication.

While you must get enough medication to control your symptoms, don't assume that more is better. Every medicine you add increases the risk of interactions and side effects.

"A lot of people wind up on five different medicines over time," says Windom. "They may have their symptoms under control, but two or three of those medicines may not really be doing anything." So he says that, together with your doctor, you need to make sure you are not taking any unnecessary medicines.

"Once you and your doctor agree on a treatment plan, you need to stick to it," says Bernstein. He also says that people need to be careful to practice environmental control at home -- like keeping pets out of the bedroom, wrapping the mattress and box spring in vinyl to keep out dust mites, and using a dehumidifier. You shouldn't expect your doctor to resolve your asthma entirely through prescription medications.

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