For too long, too many have thought of asthma as
something of a minor disease. I don't mean that doctors who treat asthma
patients don't take their care seriously. I and my patients with severe asthma
are very serious about this deadly disease. But there seems to be a sense among
some doctors — and even some patients — that asthma is an inconvenience, a
simple disease to be managed rather than a complex disease that requires
Sally Wenzel, M.D.
And there is little in the public eye to validate for
asthma sufferers that they indeed have a serious, life-threatening disease.
The truth is that asthma is more complicated than many
diseases and no one can legitimately claim to completely understand it. For
instance, different asthma patients find different things might trigger attacks.
For many, heavy, humid, summer air, with its associated smog and particle
pollution, makes breathing difficult. That's true here in Southwestern
Pennsylvania, where the American Lung Association and other advocacy groups
promote clean, healthy air. But for many other patients, fall and winter can be
just as difficult, if not more so, because of the risk of seasonal respiratory
I have been practicing pulmonary medicine for a few
decades. I see patients who have severe asthma who need more than an inhaled
steroid. They understand their battle with asthma is a life-and-death battle.
But that understanding isn't universal and needs to be.
Until all doctors, patients and advocacy groups start
seeing asthma, or at least a good percentage of asthma patients, as more than a
minor consideration, I'm afraid many asthmatics will remain poorly understood,
treated and underserved.