If you have asthma, you know how difficult it can be to breathe clearly when you have a flare-up.
Asthma is a chronic (ongoing) disease that causes airways to swell. It affects 26 million Americans, sometimes keeping them from school, work and enjoying their lives. With the right treatment, you can breathe easier.
Comprehensive asthma care at Henry Ford
Henry Ford Health System’s doctors and respiratory therapists understand asthma’s symptoms and how to help you control them. We provide accurate diagnosis so you’ll know if asthma or another condition is troubling you. And we offer solutions to keep you active while living with asthma.
When your doctor refers you to Henry Ford for expert diagnosis and treatment, you can be confident that we’re here for you. We care for patients with complex conditions, from initial diagnosis to long-term treatment. Meet our pulmonary team.
What are the signs of asthma?
Many people first receive an asthma diagnosis after an asthma attack. In a severe asthma attack, you feel like you can’t breathe or can’t get enough air. Sudden asthma attacks, or exacerbations, can last from a few minutes to days. If left untreated, asthma attacks can be dangerous.
While asthma is a lifelong disease, most people have periodic attacks separated by symptom-free periods. People with asthma may experience:
- Coughing, especially at night or in the early morning
- Wheezing (whistling or scratching sound when breathing)
- Trouble breathing
- Chest tightness
Who is most likely to get asthma?
People can develop asthma at any age. The condition appears most often in children. You are at a greater risk if you have a family history of asthma or suffer from allergies. Other types of asthma include:
- Occupational asthma: This condition can happen when you breathe dust, chemicals or other irritants at work.
- Exercise-induced asthma: Some people wheeze or cough during physical activity. This type of asthma happens when you work out or do anything active. The condition is also called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB).
How is asthma diagnosed?
If you suspect that you or a loved one has asthma, you should see an asthma specialist. Our board-certified pulmonologists are experts in diagnosing and treating adult asthma. We work closely with allergists who are experts in diagnosing and treating both adult and pediatric (childhood) asthma.
We offer thorough evaluation and diagnosis of all types of lung and respiratory conditions, including asthma. These evaluations are called pulmonary function tests. Your doctor may request:
- Spirometry: For this simple breathing test, you blow into a tube so we can measure your lung volume. Sometimes we test you with and without an inhaler to see how well the medication is working.
- Bronchoprovocation: If needed, we can safely reproduce the conditions that cause an asthma attack. This test tells your doctor what’s causing the condition so we can pinpoint a solution.
What triggers an asthma attack?
A variety of factors may provoke an attack. Common triggers include
- Allergens: Animal dander, mold, dust mites, pollen and certain food allergies
- Environmental factors: Changes in weather, air pollutants and irritants such as tobacco smoke
- Lifestyle traits: Exercise, stress and strong emotions
- Medications: Some pain medications and beta blockers
- Other medical conditions: Respiratory infections and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Asthma treatment at Henry Ford
Once you have an asthma diagnosis, your allergist usually helps you treat and manage your asthma. The goal is to control inflammation, avoid triggers and make a plan to manage sudden attacks.
Many people come to Henry Ford with more complex asthma. A team of specialists discusses each patient’s individual case. Not every medical center takes this approach, but we believe expertise results in better care. Our team includes doctors, respiratory therapists and pharmacists.
We develop a treatment plan specific to your health, your needs and your priorities. Your asthma plan may include:
- Asthma medications: Doctors treat asthma with a variety of short- and long-term medications. Some of these medications are ones you inhale. We’ll help you find the inhaler that works for you. If an inhaled medication doesn’t control your symptoms, your doctor may recommend shots. In these cases, our lung and pulmonary team works closely with your allergist to manage your care together.
- Advanced care for severe asthma: Severe asthma, also known as refractory asthma, doesn’t respond to typical treatment. At Henry Ford, we have the skill and the tools to offer solutions for refractory asthma in our pulmonary program. Some of the tools are highlighted below, but there are others that we may offer based on your specific needs.
- Injections/Shots: We provide XOLAIR and Nucala injections for those who qualify. You may receive these injections every two or every four weeks at your doctor’s office.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: We offer a supervised exercise program that can help reduce shortness of breath and other asthma symptoms. Most important, you can gain more energy for your daily life. Learn about pulmonary rehabilitation.
- Bronchial thermoplasty: Asthma is caused by abnormal reactions in your airways. Sometimes doctors need to treat those airways directly through a process called bronchial thermoplasty. The physicians who work in our bronchoscopy and interventional pulmonology program were involved in the early work in this area and can provide you the most accurate assessment of whether you may benefit from this procedure.
- Genetic testing: Sometimes, patients who are told that they have asthma in fact have another disease. Some of these diseases are inherited (passed down from parents to children). Genetic testing can help assess whether that may be the case for you. Find out what to expect at the genetics clinic visit.