By Denise Grady
Two young brothers with the same chronic illness. One mother's
struggle...and what she knows now about keeping her children healthy.
When I first learned that my older son had asthma, I imagined that it would
go away in a few weeks or months. I clung to that bit of denial, I guess,
because it helped ease the fear and sadness as reality sank in. Brian was only
3, and deep down my husband and I knew we were facing a serious chronic disease
that would probably hang...
While it can't be cured, good treatment allows most people with asthma to
live full, normal lives. But taming your asthma isn't something you can do on
your own. You'll need to work closely with your doctor to devise a treatment
plan that fits in with your life.
Since your condition can be affected by so many things -- the weather, your
diet, and your medication, to name a few -- it's crucial that you and your
doctor respond quickly to changes in your symptoms. Perhaps more than many
other diseases, asthma requires a good partnership for good treatment.
"Here's the bottom line," Bernstein tells WebMD. "A person's
relationship with his or her physician really determines whether the asthma is
under control or not."
But how do you know if you're getting the best care possible? How can you
find a specialist whom you like and trust? If you want a healthy life and good
control of your asthma, what should you expect from your doctor -- and what
should he or she expect from you? We asked some experts to explain the key to a
A Good Partnership Helps Control Asthma Symptoms
Experts agree that working together with your doctor can make a big
difference. The current asthma treatment guidelines from the National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute state that the doctor-patient partnership is the
"cornerstone" of good treatment. The guidelines cite many studies
showing the success of patient education in using inhalers, reducing exposure
to allergens, and treating emergencies.
But unfortunately, not enough people are partnering with their doctors. In a
survey conducted by the CDC in 2001, less than half of people with asthma
reported that they had a routine checkup with a doctor in the last year.
Losing control of your asthma can lead to serious complications. According
to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, asthma is one of the most common and most
costly illnesses in the U.S.; 20 million people have it. Every year, asthma
hospitalizes around 500,000 people and kills more than 5,000. A lot of that
suffering could be avoided if people had better control over their condition,
according to the National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
More than ever, asthma experts are stressing the importance of control and
Bernstein says that the old way of evaluating asthma -- with categories like
"mild," "moderate" and "severe" -- is becoming
outdated. "We now know that if a person with so-called 'severe' asthma is
properly managed, he or she can really be a mild case," he tells WebMD.
"And people with 'mild' asthma that isn't controlled can be quite
Asthma can be tricky because its symptoms can change a lot over time. If you
move to a new home or get a new job, you could encounter new irritants and
allergens. Your symptoms might change if you start taking medicine for other
health conditions. You may find that conditions such as arthritis can make it
harder to use your inhaler than it once was. You and your doctor will need to
adjust your treatment to reflect these changes. But that won't happen if you're
not making regular appointments.