Asthma symptoms like shortness of breath (dyspnea), coughing, and wheezing can have a big effect on your quality of life.
University of Iowa Health Care pulmonologists use a team approach to provide expert diagnosis and leading-edge treatments for severe asthma.
Our goals are to:
- Identify your triggers
- Effectively manage your symptoms
- Prevent flare-ups
Our patients tell us that our expertise in treating asthma is life-changing.
Because UI Health Care is an academic medical system, our specialists are also leaders in researching innovative new asthma therapies.
We’ll evaluate you to see if you’re eligible for any clinical trials or treatments that aren’t widely available.
Asthma symptoms and diagnosis
Asthma is a chronic (ongoing) disease that causes inflammation of the air passages in your lungs. The passages swell and narrow, making it harder for air to pass in and out of your lungs.
Symptoms of asthma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Coughing, with or without phlegm
Asthma attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. If your airways are blocked, these attacks are dangerous.
Most people have flares of asthma followed by periods with no symptoms, while others experience symptoms most of the time.
Talk to your primary care provider if you’re having symptoms of asthma. Typically, you can work with your primary care provider to successfully alleviate your symptoms and manage asthma. But if your asthma becomes severe or more frequent, your provider will refer you to a pulmonologist for further treatment options.
Causes of asthma
Asthma symptoms can be triggered by:
- Breathing in allergens like mold, pollen, pet dander, and dust mites
- Certain medicines, including aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
- Changes in weather, most often cold weather or thunderstorms
- Chemicals in the air or in food
- Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
- Strong emotions or stress
- Tobacco smoke
Asthma treatment from UI Health Care
Asthma isn’t curable, but there are a number of effective strategies for controlling your symptoms.
If your asthma isn’t severe, your primary care provider can likely help you manage it. They can prescribe therapies like control medications and rescue medications.
But if your asthma is severe or hard to control, you need the expertise of UI Health Care’s asthma specialists.
When your asthma is controlled, you can do the activities you love. You’ll also be able to sleep without being awakened by symptoms.
Drugs used to control asthma are delivered via inhalers, infusions, injections, and pills.
Depending on your unique triggers and other conditions (such as interstitial lung disease), you may need one medication or a combination.
Your UI Health Care provider will discuss which of these common medications may be right for you:
- Control medications, including inhaled corticosteroids, which prevent asthma attacks from happening by controlling airway inflammation
- Beta or muscarinic agonists, used alongside control medications to relax the muscles that tighten your airways
- Quick-relief, or rescue, medications to expand the passageways of your lungs during an asthma attack
- Biologics that treat the specific parts of your immune system that contribute to allergies
When we prescribe a medication, we also make sure you get the maximum benefit from it.
For example, if you have an inhaler, we’ll explain and demonstrate how to use it so it’s as effective as possible.
You may also need tools like a spacer, which helps your inhaler deliver more medication to your airways.
Our goal is to give you all the knowledge and tools you need to manage your asthma.
UI Health Care is the only health system in Iowa to offer the Zephyr valve. This minimally invasive treatment helps the healthier part of your lungs work better.
We also offer bronchial thermoplasty, a minimally invasive procedure to shrink the muscles that swell and block your airway.
Making it easier to get the medications you need
Some asthma medications are expensive. If you have insurance coverage issues or your co-pay is too high, UI Health Care pharmacists and social workers can team up with your providers to help.
Together, they can identify:
- Patient assistance programs
- Generic equivalents for brand-name drugs
- Drugs that you can inject at home instead of coming in for infusions
A true team approach
When you choose UI Health Care for asthma treatment, you’ll have a team of experts on your side.
The team meets weekly to discuss their current patients. This means you’ll have a team of specialists working to give you the most effective treatment possible.
Because the whole team is familiar with your case, we can always get you in to see someone quickly. We strive to make sure you won’t need to wait for an opening in a particular provider’s schedule.
And our nurses, who specialize in asthma and airway disorders, provide additional support for all your questions.
Many people with asthma have other conditions that can make symptoms worse, like allergies and acid reflux.
As an academic health system, UI Health Care has specialists and subspecialists in dozens of fields.
If you have other conditions that affect your asthma, your pulmonology team will bring in other experts.
To help manage asthma, our team works closely with colleagues in:
Together, they’ll collaborate on a treatment plan that addresses all your needs. They’ll also work with your primary care provider and keep them informed.