Treating Asthma: Partnering With Your Doctor
Want to get your asthma symptoms under control? Start by working closely with your doctor. Here's how.
Is Your Primary Doctor Enough?
In some cases, yes, especially if your symptoms are mild and your asthma is
under control. But checking in with an expert -- maybe just once a year --
wouldn't hurt. If your asthma is any worse, you really need to see an
Whatever you do, don't settle. If you're not getting better, it's time to
see a specialist. You deserve the best treatment you can get.
"A lot of people stick with doctors who aren't helping," says Norman
Edelman, MD, a pulmonologist and Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung
Association. "You may love your family doctor, and you may really
appreciate that he or she knows you and cares about you. But that doesn't mean
that he or she is all that knowledgeable about asthma."
"I don't mean any disrespect to all of the smart, good general
practitioners out there," says Bernstein. "But by their nature, they're
not specialists. They're looking at everything -- hypertension, diabetes, heart
disease, respiratory problems, depression, thyroid problems, and the whole
spectrum of disease. They can't be experts on every subject."
Once you get your asthma under control, you can go back to your regular
doctor, says Korenblat. Then you can just have checkups with your specialist.
How often depends on your situation. Once a year is fine if your asthma is well
controlled, Edelman says.
Tips for Finding a Specialist
There are three types of doctors who specialize in treating asthma:
Allergists and Immunologists treat allergies, such as the
ones that affect asthma, and other problems with the immune system.
Pulmonologists focus on problems with the lungs and
airways, including conditions like asthma.
Any of these specialists should be able to help. But there are cases where
seeing one over another might make sense. For instance, if you want to be
tested for allergies, see an allergist or an immunologist. If you want advanced
testing of your lungs, or if other lung diseases might be affecting your
asthma, you should see a pulmonologist.
There are a lot of different ways to find an expert. You can ask your health
care provider, your health insurance company, or a local hospital for a
recommendation. You can also just look in the Yellow Pages. Make sure that
anyone you see is licensed and board certified as an allergist, immunologist,
Some nonprofit organizations can help you find a specialist. Both of the
following have "physician finders" on their web sites to help you find
a licensed expert in your area.
- The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI)
Web site: www.aaaai.orgT
- he American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)
Web site: http://www.acaai.org/
Toll-free physician referral line: 800-842-7777.B
But one of the best ways to find a specialist is still word of mouth.
"Asthma is a really common disease, so you'll meet a lot of people who
have it," says Hugh H. Windom, MD, associate clinical professor of
immunology at the University of South Florida. "If you keep hearing the
same specialist recommended over and over again, that's probably the person you
want to see."