Welcome to the Asthma Program at the University of Florida. We are a dedicated group of pulmonary physicians, nurses, and pharmacists who specialize in the care of difficult to treat asthma. There are multiple types of asthma and while most people with this disease have similar symptoms, they may not all respond to treatment the same way. Our multidisciplinary team prides itself on an individualized approach to both diagnosis and treatment in order to ensure that each patient gets the treatment (or combination of treatments) that’s best for them. We provide comprehensive, state-of-the-art care which includes not only the latest advances in treatment, but also patient education, including having a dedicated pharmacist in the clinic who specializes in asthma and provides medication counseling for our patients during their visit.
Asthma is a disease characterized by chronic inflammation in the airways of the lung, which affects over 25 million people in the United States. This inflammation makes the lungs very sensitive to certain things in the environment, often referred to as “asthma triggers.” When exposed to these triggers, the airways become swollen and create more mucus, making it difficult to move air in and out of the lungs. This results in symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and cough. Asthma can be serious and even life-threatening; while there is no cure for this disease, the good news is that with the proper treatment, it can be kept under control, allowing patients to live a normal, healthy life.
How do I know if my breathing problems are due to Asthma?
The following symptoms are characteristic of asthma:
- More than one symptom (wheeze, shortness of breath, cough and chest tightness)
- These may vary with time and in intensity
- Often worse at night or early morning, interfering with sleep
- Symptoms are triggered by viral infections (cold), exercise, allergies, changes in the weather, smoke or other irritants such as exhaust fumes, perfumes, or other strong smells.
Even if you have these symptoms, diagnostic testing is the only way to be sure someone has asthma (and what type). The most common one is called a pulmonary function test, or PFT for short. Sometimes, a combination of tests may be necessary to be sure we find the best treatment for each individual. For example, we may need to do blood tests to check for things like allergies or high levels of a certain type of white blood cell called eosinophils. Other tests we may employ include bronchoprovocation (“methacholine challenge”) testing, and exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO).
How is Asthma treated?
Asthma treatment begins with one or more inhaled medications, the most important of which is an inhaled corticosteroid to reduce inflammation. Inhalers have been the mainstay of asthma treatment for over 50 years and still are to this day. In addition to taking your asthma medications on a regular basis, other ways to help keep your asthma under control include identifying and avoiding your triggers (if possible) and to treat things like allergies or acid reflux (heartburn) that may make asthma symptoms worse.
However, this standard treatment alone may not be enough for some patients with severe asthma. Until relatively recently their other choices were limited and commonly came with significant side effects. Fortunately, over the past several years a number of new treatments for severe asthma have become available which are both safe and highly effective. Since there are multiple types of asthma, only an evaluation by an asthma specialist can determine which of these advanced treatments may be right for you. We offer and have extensive experience with all FDA-approved treatments, including cutting-edge targeted biologic therapy and a procedure known as Bronchial Thermoplasty performed by experts in Interventional Pulmonology.