Asthma symptoms cause swelling or tightening in your airways. This swelling makes it difficult to breathe.
Some people with asthma can go about their daily activities. But others experience frequent, severe asthma attacks requiring immediate medical attention.
Physicians at Allegheny Health Network (AHN) are easing the impact of asthma on our community. We offer the latest asthma treatments and personalized support so you can live your life with fewer asthma-related interruptions.
Information about asthma attacks
When you have asthma, you may experience sudden symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath. These are signs of an asthma attack. During an asthma attack, muscles in your airway may narrow or twitch. You may also experience thicker or more mucous in your lungs.
Common causes (triggers) of asthma attacks include:
- Smoke, dust, and chemicals in the air
- Common respiratory illnesses, including colds and sinus infections
- Activities that make you breathe harder, including exercising or walking up stairs
- Winter weather, including cold, dry air
Asthma care at AHN: Why choose us?
Asthma can get in the way of daily activities, such as attending work or school. And the Pittsburgh area’s poor air quality poses an additional challenge to getting asthma symptoms under control.
At AHN, we can loosen asthma’s grip on your life. Our physicians consistently help people achieve lasting relief – even when standard treatments are not successful.
Highlights of our program include:
- Innovative asthma treatments: We offer newly approved treatments, such as biologic therapies, that are not widely available. Biologic therapies target and halt the biologic processes that cause severe asthma attacks. These treatments give more options to people whose symptoms do not improve with standard asthma medications.
- Access to new procedures: Asthma medications don’t work for everyone, which is why we offer bronchial thermoplasty. This procedure is the first FDA-approved treatment of its kind. It has helped many people get relief from frequent, severe asthma attacks. Read RosaLee's story.
- Community outreach: We are increasing asthma awareness through research and outreach. Our efforts include studies measuring the impact of asthma on our community. We also regularly host public events with nationally recognized asthma care leaders to discuss how poor air quality affects people with asthma – and what we can do about it.
Our team approach to asthma care
AHN is among the first programs in western Pennsylvania using a team approach for treating uncontrolled asthma. Asthma doctors, nurse specialists, and pharmacists work together so they can tailor treatments to meet your needs. Most patients see multiple members of our team, receive necessary tests, and fill prescriptions in a single visit.
Read more about our Breathing Disorders Center.
Our asthma treatments
We offer the complete range of asthma care services to give you the best chance for successful treatment.
Your care may include:
An asthma action plan
Your asthma action plan includes written instructions for controlling your symptoms and getting help if you need it.
Asthma action plans often describe:
- Daily treatments, including the medicines you take and how often you should take them
- What to do if symptoms get worse, such as when to call us and when to seek emergency care
Standard asthma medications
Many people maintain good symptom control with medications you breathe in using a handheld device (inhaler). We teach you the proper technique for using inhalers so you get the most out of each treatment.
Standard asthma medications include:
- Long term (maintenance) medications: People take maintenance medications for a few days after being exposed to an asthma trigger, such as a cold. Maintenance medications often include steroids, which reduce inflammation and lower your risk for an asthma attack.
- Quick relief or rescue medications: For worsening symptoms, you may use a bronchodilator, such as Albuterol. This type of medication works within minutes to relax narrowing or twitching muscles in your airways.
Monitoring your progress with regular testing helps us know whether treatments are working. We often use spirometry and peak flow monitoring. These tests measure how well your lungs are working. If your symptoms are worsening, we use these tests to determine whether adjustments to your treatment plan have been successful.
Treatments for uncontrolled asthma
If standard asthma medications fail to bring you relief, other treatments may help. We offer the latest options for difficult-to-treat asthma, including:
- Biologic therapy: You receive injections (shots) of substances that stop the biologic processes causing inflammation in the lungs.
- Bronchial thermoplasty: This procedure uses focused bursts of heat to destroy swollen tissue in the lining of the lungs. Treating tissue in this way, along with standard medications, makes asthma symptoms less severe.