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 expert.
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, or pulmonologist.