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Treating Asthma: Partnering With Your Doctor

Want to get your asthma symptoms under control? Start by working closely with your doctor. Here's how.

A Good Partnership Helps Control Asthma Symptoms continued...

More than ever, asthma experts are stressing the importance of control and prevention.

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says that the old way of evaluating asthma -- with categories like "mild," "moderate" and "severe" -- is becoming outdated.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 sick."

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.

Do You Need to See an Asthma Expert?

Sometimes, yes. It's hard to tell. In fact, you may be the worst judge of your own condition.

"There are patients with significant asthma who have had it so long that they get used to the symptoms," says Phillip E. Korenblat, MD, an allergist and Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "They don't realize how sick they are, and just accept the limitations on their lives."

The evidence backs him up. For instance, in a recent poll sponsored by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of more than 4,500 adults in the U.S., 88% of people with asthma said that their condition was "under control." However, the details suggested otherwise. Fifty percent said that asthma made them stop exercising during a regimen; 48% said that it woke them at night. Neither should be happening if your asthma is really under control.

So you need to look at your situation as objectively as you can. You should see a specialist if:

  • Your symptoms are restricting your life. "We believe that your asthma isn't under control if it's affecting your work, sleep, or play," says Angel Waldron, spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. "It's time to get help if your symptoms are interrupting your sleep at night, making you miss work or leave early, or limiting your physical activity."

  • You need medicine every day. "I think that anyone with asthma who requires daily medication should be seeing a specialist," says Korenblat.

  • You're not getting better after three to six months of treatment.

  • Other illnesses may be affecting your asthma. Many conditions like sinusitis, lung disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) can worsen your asthma.

  • You've had an emergency. "If you've had to go to the emergency room because of your asthma, I think that's a good sign that you need to be seeing an expert," says Korenblat.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

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