Asthma can start at any age, and since adult-onset asthma can seem like the result of aging or being out of shape, it can be especially deadly.
Many assume asthma is a disease that first turns up in childhood. But you can develop asthma as an adult, and many people do.
It’s not uncommon for people at any age, even over 50, to be diagnosed with asthma.
Adults can develop asthma from infections like bronchitis or pneumonia, or from allergies and irritants like smoke or mold, but the cause is often unclear.
Kentucky has the highest percentage of adults with asthma in the country, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Kentucky’s adult death rate from asthma is 10.2 per million, slightly higher than the national norm.
Adult-onset asthma can be more dangerous because it’s easy to attribute the symptoms to being overweight, out of shape or just getting older. It’s critical to get diagnosed quickly and begin treatment before lung function is reduced permanently.
Norton Pulmonary Specialists
Our board-certified and fellowship-trained physicians are leaders in caring for asthma patients in Louisville and Southern Indiana.
Asthma Symptoms in Adults
Shortness of breath that occurs when you are performing a simple exercise such as walking to the mailbox or climbing the stairs: If it’s an everyday occurrence, the symptom is known as dyspnea on exertion. It shouldn’t be confused with shortness of breath following an illness or strenuous exercise.
A persistent cough from asthma is a dry cough that occurs in response to asthma triggers such as a cold, allergies or smoke. The cough is more likely to happen at night. Chest tightness and cold symptoms that hang in the chest for an extended period of time are also sometimes symptoms of asthma.
Wheezing or a whistling sound when you exhale is another asthma symptom. Having difficulty breathing is a common complaint from many asthma patients.
Factors that affect adult-onset asthma include:
- Exposure to environmental elements either at work or home that cause allergy-like symptoms
- Medical history of allergies
- Living now or in the past in a smoking household
- Family history of asthma
Adult Asthma Treatment
Treating asthma in adults is often different than in children. You and your pulmonologist will develop an asthma action plan for avoiding triggers and managing symptoms when they worsen.
As an adult with asthma, you’ll face unique challenges controlling the disease.
- Asthma medications tend to be less effective among people who are older or obese.
- Steroids to address inflammation can complicate other conditions common among adults.
- Beta blockers for heart conditions can exacerbate asthma
- Weakened muscles that control deep breathing complicate asthma in adults.