According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 26 million Americans suffer from asthma. Some people have asthma that is easily controlled and they only need to rarely use an asthma rescue medication like albuterol. However, others have more difficulty controlling their asthma. For these patients, physicians specializing in allergy and asthma, an allergist/immunologist, can be helpful in achieving control of their asthma symptoms.
Allergists can take a detailed history and work with a patient to determine if there are specific triggers that may cause asthma attacks. Allergy testing, where potential environmental triggers like dust, mold, pollens, and pet dander are placed on the skin, can provide information on what might be triggering the asthma. An allergist can review avoidance measures for any environmental triggers, and if reactions to environmental allergens are strong enough, and if allergy and asthma medications have been ineffective in the past, the individual may be a candidate for allergy immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots.
Some patients that have persistent asthma symptoms may gain control of asthma with the regular use of oral or inhaled medications. An allergist can walk you through the risks and benefits of these medications.
Unfortunately, some people cannot gain asthma control with just oral or inhaled medications and may need to be placed on oral steroids, like prednisone, or need frequent steroid injections. Although steroids can provide relief of asthma symptoms, steroids can have significant long-term side effects so if other non-steroid medications can help reduce or eliminate the need for oral or injected steroids, that would be preferable to the possible long-term side effects of steroids.
Fortunately, there is an alternative class of medications used to treat asthma called biologics, and many new biologic medications have recently been given FDA approval. As our understanding of asthma grows, we have come to realize that not all asthma is the same. Allergists can help further define a person’s asthma, and if they are a good candidate, they may gain significant relief from one of these biologic medications.
As previously mentioned, there are many treatment options for patients that have asthma and an allergist, like the allergists at Allergy Partners, can help people suffering with asthma determine their asthma triggers and discuss evaluation and treatment options. If you, or someone you know, has asthma and would like to see an allergist, locations for Allergy Partners physicians can be found at www.allergypartners.com/locations.
By Dr. Marshall Wise
Allergy Partners of Boone County & Eastern Kentucky