An Asthma Specialist Can Help You Achieve Better Asthma Control
Asthma is a common disease, there is no doubt. So, most doctors are fairly familiar with how to diagnose, treat, and control asthma, which is good news. This includes family medicine doctors, pediatricians, and internists. It might even include an advanced practice nurse, in some cases. However, there are times when you might want to consult with some sort of asthma specialist.
The goal of asthma treatment is always better asthma control. A specialist is more well-versed in how to help you achieve asthma control. So, in this post, we'll take a look at the various types of specialists in asthma care, when you should consider them, and how to get the most out of your contact with them.
Types of Asthma Specialists
When you have asthma, it's important to choose the right kind of doctor to treat your particular health problems. Depending on the individual, people who have asthma can benefit from care provided by doctors with specialty training and experience in these areas:
There are different types of asthma. The most common type is allergic asthma.1 But some asthma cases arise as a result of occupational exposure to allergens or irritants. Asthma can also affect people across the entire age spectrum. Children with asthma might benefit more from one particular type of specialist, while an older adult with asthma might need a different type of specialist.
Here are the two most common types of asthma specialists:2
- Allergist or immunologist. This type of doctor specializes in allergies, asthma and allergic asthma. Allergists have extra training related to the immune system.
- Pulmonologist. This type of doctor specializes in diseases of the lungs and airways, the respiratory or pulmonary system. They have additional graduate training in pulmonary diseases following medical school.
Within those two specialties, there may also be doctors who sub-specialize in pediatrics or older adults. For example, you might look for a pediatric allergist. Or, if your asthma is occupational in origin, you might seek a respiratory specialist who sub-specializes in occupational health.
Respiratory therapists are another type of health care professional that can be very helpful in treating asthma. Although they are not physicians and cannot diagnose or prescribe medicine, they can help with diagnostic testing, teach you breathing exercises and administer certain treatments, both inside and outside the hospital setting.
When You Might Want to Consult With an Asthma Specialist
If you or your child has asthma and you're happy with your current primary care physician, you might be reluctant to see a different doctor. But here are a few reasons why you should consider it: 3
- There are symptoms usually associated with asthma, but your primary doctor isn't sure of an asthma diagnosis.
- You or your child have had at least one asthma attack in the past year that required emergency care.
- The asthma has only been controlled with regular or frequent doses of oral steroids.
- Consistent asthma control has been hard to achieve, even with treatment.
- Your current doctor isn't familiar with the latest asthma treatments or treatment guidelines.
Or, you might be open to consulting a specialist, but your doctor hasn't mentioned it. This might be because s/he feels as though things are going as well as can be expected already. Or insurance regulations could be a barrier. Regardless, it is your right, so don't be shy about requesting a referral to an asthma specialist.
Here's one more thing to consider. A study done with about 3500 patients who had persistent asthma found that those under the care of an allergist had a wide range of better asthma outcomes: 3
- Better quality of life
- Less asthma control problems
- Less severe symptoms
- Higher satisfaction with their health care
- Better asthma management knowledge
- Less frequent hospitalizations or emergency care for asthma
Getting the most from an asthma specialist consult
First off, make sure you find an asthma specialist with the right kind of training for your needs. Specialty medical providers must be board-certified and/or undergo rigorous, extra training after medical school. It's OK to ask about credentials and whether they are actively involved and knowledgeable about the latest developments in the treatment of asthma. You may even to speak with the specialist via phone to make sure you feel a connection before making an appointment.
You'll also want to find out if they accept your kind of health insurance and practice at your preferred hospital.
In some cases, the specialist might take over your asthma care. In others, they might work with you for a time to achieve better asthma control and then turn you back over to your primary care doctor. Either way, be proactive in making sure everyone on your health care team knows what is being prescribed and how your health care is being managed. Coordination and communication are some of the keys to lasting asthma control.
And, by working with the right doctors, you'll have the best treatment plan for you and the best chance at positive asthma outcomes.
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