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Ahead of World Asthma Day on May 7, physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi are advising people with breathing problems to see a doctor who can help to develop a treatment plan for their condition. 

Asthma is a serious and chronic illness, which can cause shortness of breath, tightness or pain in the chest, coughing and the production of extra mucus. According to the Global Asthma Report, as many as 339 million people worldwide are affected by asthma, with one in six people in the UAE suffering from the condition.

Dr. Mohamed Abuzakouk, Consultant in Clinical Immunology and Allergy and Head of Allergy and Immunology section at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and Clinical Professor of Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio explained: “Asthma is a respiratory condition in which the bronchi of the lungs go into spasm. This causes difficulty in breathing and is usually associated with an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity. Practical and medicinal measures need to be taken to manage this condition.”

Once diagnosed as asthma, these symptoms can be controlled with the help of a physician who will devise a treatment plan and regularly track patient’s health for any changes in symptoms. The condition changes over time, so treatment plans need to be adjusted accordingly.

“Although there is no cure for asthma, the patient and physician can work together to design a step-by-step treatment plan for living with the condition and preventing asthma attacks. There are certain steps that patients need to take that will help them cope with their condition,” added Dr. Abuzakouk.

Patients who have trouble breathing in certain situations may be suffering from asthma. Sometimes the condition can manifest as a sensitivity to dust, air pollution, strong perfumes, cold air from AC, aerosols, paint, outdoor allergens such as flowers and newly-mown grass, or cigarette smoke. 

Early diagnosis is important to prevent complications, so it is important for patients to see their doctor. Following diagnosis, doctors can help patients to learn to recognize the early symptoms and signs, identify the risk factors which can bring on symptoms, and be prepared in case they have an asthma attack.

In addition, the doctor should provide a treatment plan, which will include the relevant medications and a list of triggers for the condition that the patient should avoid. 

“Treatments offered at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi include innovative injectables that are relatively new to the UAE, but which are proving to be very effective. These can be particularly useful for patients with severe instances of the disease that is not being controlled with conventional treatment, such as high dose inhaled steroids. However, medicine alone is not the answer, and patients should be advised by their physician of ways they can manage their illness in a practical sense. It is important to see a doctor – and particularly an allergist, immunologist or pulmonologist – for proper allergy testing if you believe you have asthma, to avoid long-term damage to the lungs,” said Dr. Abuzakouk.

World Asthma Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), to improve asthma awareness and care around the world.

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