photo

Asthma Program

The Massachusetts General Hospital Asthma Program diagnoses and manages asthma in adults and children, and provides ongoing care to help patients effectively control their condition and enjoy a better quality of life.

Taking a Different Approach

The incidence of asthma is rising in many developed countries. In the United States alone, an estimated 22 million adults and children suffer from asthma.

At the Mass General Asthma Program, we believe that an approach of delivering asthma care under emergency or urgent conditions is not ideal—and possibly has contributed to the growing prevalence of this condition. We emphasize routine, long-term management and monitoring. Our primary goal is to enable patients to maintain normal lung function and a healthy lifestyle while avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room and hospital stays. In essence, we want our patients to control their asthma and not let the asthma control them.

What to Expect

Every asthmatic patient's case is different, and we tailor our diagnostic and therapeutic approaches accordingly.

At your first appointment, you can expect an in-depth consultation with one of our allergy specialists. In order to diagnose asthma—and distinguish it from other lung disorders—we may perform:

  • A physical examination
  • A thorough evaluation of your medical history and environmental exposures in your home, your workplace and elsewhere
  • Allergy skin testing to identify which environmental allergens may be triggering your symptoms
  • Breathing tests to assess lung function, including spirometry and peak flow monitoring

Following diagnosis, we will first recommend avoidance or minimizing exposure to the identified triggers. We will carefully explain which environmental factors may be causing your symptoms and how to make the necessary lifestyle changes.

Next, we will recommend medications (if necessary). Asthma medications typically take the form of inhalers and occasionally tablets. All of our nurses have specialized advanced training as "Asthma Educators" and provide expert guidance on how to use and care for the inhaler devices.

For some patients with severe asthma, oral corticosteroids and/or anti-immunoglobulin E (anti-IgE) therapy may be appropriate. Whereas inhaled steroids reduce inflammation associated with asthma, anti-IgE therapy potentially can prevent inflammation from developing in the first place.

We embrace and adhere to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's Asthma Management Guidelines, which emphasize regular monitoring of the degree of control of the patient's asthma. Routine monitoring allows us to adjust your medication incrementally during periods of increased severity—and to reduce it during prolonged periods of good control, which helps you stay well and steer clear of medical crises.

A Multidisciplinary Approach for Comprehensive Care

Our patients enjoy easy access to world-class clinicians from related specialties. We work closely and share a suite with Mass General pulmonology specialists, making it convenient for patients to have pulmonary-related exams, tests and consultations. In addition, we often manage care jointly with ear, nose and throat specialists from the nearby Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

A Full Range of Asthma Services

We offer a full range of asthma services, both at Mass General's main campus and at Mass General West in Waltham. Since we understand asthma can cause acute symptoms, we have a staff physician and a fellow on call 24/7 to answer patient questions and address emergency issues.

We are one of the only academic medical centers in Boston to treat both adults and children with asthma, which is important because asthma tends to run in families. Once we establish an effective treatment regimen for one patient, we can often take the same approach in caring for another family member. In addition, our patients enjoy the comfort that comes from receiving lifelong care at a single facility.

Treating Asthma in All Its Forms

We care for patients with all major forms of asthma, including:

  • Allergic asthma: Triggered by an allergy, often with an onset in childhood
  • Non-allergic, late-onset asthma: Developed later in life, frequently with no allergic basis
  • Occupational asthma: Caused by exposure to inhaled materials in the workplace
  • Drug-induced asthma: Induced by medications such as aspirin or beta blockers

All of our allergy specialists treat asthmatic patients. Our team includes physicians who are nationally known for treating this condition and are leading the way in developing novel treatments, such as combination and anti-immunoglobulin E (anti-IgE) therapies.

Groundbreaking Research

Many asthma-related research studies are taking place at Mass General, with the ultimate goal of translating findings into improved clinical care as soon as possible. In the area of basic science, our physicians are investigating the mechanism of disease of asthma. Current clinical trials are exploring combination therapy as well as anti-IgE therapy (including its use during pregnancy).

Educating the Next Generation

We are dedicated to preparing the next generation of leaders as academic clinicians and basic scientists in allergy and immunology. Fellows in the Allergy and Immunology Training Program receive clinical and research training in asthma and all other major conditions. Internal medicine residents also gain exposure to asthma patients as part of their general training.

Acute Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the breathing tubes (airways) that are called bronchi, which causes increased production of mucus and other changes.

Allergic Rhinitis (Allergies)

Rhinitis is a reaction that occurs in the nose when airborne irritants (allergens) trigger the release of histamine. Histamine causes inflammation and fluid production in the fragile linings of nasal passages, sinuses, and eyelids.

Allergies

Allergies are among the most common heath problems, with more than 50 million people afflicted with asthma, seasonal hay fever, or other allergy-related conditions each year.

Croup

Croup is a disease caused by a virus that leads to swelling in the airways and problems breathing.

Food Allergies

A food allergy is an abnormal response of the body to a certain food.

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma is a type of asthma caused by exposure to inhaled irritants in the workplace. Symptoms may disappear when the irritants that caused the asthma are avoided.

Rhinitis

Rhinitis is a reaction that occurs in the eyes, nose and throat when airborne irritants (allergens) trigger the release of histamine.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious breathing disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.

Next Steps: