What to Ask Your Doctor
By Justine van der Leun
An asthma diagnosis can be terrifying and confusing: Will you have to stop exercising? Will you have to stay inside all spring and summer? Fortunately, asthma is a manageable condition that, when properly treated, should not interfere with your daily life. Dr. James M. Rubin, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, talked to us about the bright outlook for people with asthma, as well as the treatment options available.
"Make sure your doctor is board certified in allergy and immunology, on staff at a teaching hospital or has formal training in the specialty," cautions Rubin. "Asthma is a difficult condition to deal with unless you really know what you're doing."
With that in mind, he offers questions to ask your specialist -- and some of the answers you can expect.
1. What is asthma?
Your doctor will tell you that asthma is a chronic condition in which the lungs react to stimuli by becoming inflamed, which in turn tightens airways. He may also explain that while structural changes to the lungs do not cause asthma, the condition may, over time, cause structural damage to the lungs.
2. What causes my asthma?
Asthma has both a genetic and environmental basis. Your doctor will probably inform you that most often, allergens exacerbate asthma in a person predisposed to the condition. Allergens can include foods, dust mites, mold spores, pollen and pet hair. Other triggers may include cold air, smoking, pollution, stress and both viral and bacterial infections.
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