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What is Asthma?

Asthma is an acute or chronic spasm of the muscles that surround your airways (the tubes through which air travels in and out of your lungs).  This constriction of the muscles causes the airway passages to narrow, decreasing the passage of air into and out of your lungs making it difficult to breath.  This is often referred to as a bronchospasm.  A whistling sound, known as “wheezing” is often associated with an episode or “attack” of asthma. 
In patients with asthma, the airways are very sensitive, and tend to react strongly to allergens (things to which you may be allergic) and irritants. Although the actual cause of asthma is not certain, respiratory illness, exercise, air pollution, sudden inhalation of cold air or smoke can often act as triggers, precipitating an attach of asthma. 

Asthma cannot be cured, but with the help of an Allergist, your asthma can be controlled, decreasing the severity and frequency of your symptoms to help you lead a healthier, more active and full life.

 Illustration showing anormal airway and an airway in a person with asthma.

Some asthma attacks are worse than others. In a severe asthma attack, the airways may become so obstructed that not enough oxygen gets to vital organs. A severe asthma attacks can be a life threatening emergency.

If you have asthma, it is very important for you to see your Allergy doctor regularly. You will need to learn what things cause your asthma symptoms and how to avoid them. Your doctor will also prescribe medicines to keep your asthma under control and should discuss other treatment options with you, such as allergy shots, or immunotherapy, which may keep your asthma from progressing in severity.

Allergists have undergone rigorous training and are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic asthma. An allergist can test for allergic triggers and educate patients in their avoidance, as well as provide regular care and follow-up for those suffering from both allergic and non-allergic asthma.  In our office, we are able to perform pulmonary functions tests to assess the severity of an asthma attack, to give nebulizers and other treatment for the immediate relief of asthma symptoms as well as to perform assessments and testing to identify the allergic triggers of an asthma attack.

We will also devise an individualized treatment plan specifically geared toward easing your asthma symptoms and decreasing both the severity and frequency of your attacks. 
Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be a useful adjunctive treatment for allergic asthma in patients who have been assessed and found to be candidates for this kind of therapy.  Evidence also suggests that allergy shots can not only decrease the severity and frequency of asthma, but may also  prevent the development of asthma in children.

Taking care of your health is an important part of your life. Controlling your asthma means working closely with your Allergy doctor to learn what to do, staying away from things that harm your airways, taking medicines that are prescribed by your Allergist, and monitoring your asthma so that you can respond quickly to signs of an attack. By controlling your asthma every day, you can prevent serious symptoms that could prevent you from enjoying your life fully. 

Copyright © 2008-2010 Dr. Beth Cowan