How Is Adult Onset Asthma Diagnosed
Asthma symptoms can mimic other illnesses or diseasesespecially in older adults. Hiatal hernia, stomach problems or rheumatoid arthritis can create asthma-like symptoms. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has many of the same symptoms as asthma. COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is very common in older adults, especially those who are or have been smokers. To diagnose asthma, your physician will question you about your symptoms, do a physical exam, and conduct lung function tests. In addition, you may be tested for allergies. Your primary care physician may refer you to a pulmonologist or an allergist for specialized testing or treatment. If you have any asthma symptoms, dont ignore them or try to treat them yourself! Get a definitive diagnosis from your health care provider.
How Long Asthma Lasts For
Asthma is a long-term condition for many people, particularly if it first develops when you’re an adult.
In children, it sometimes goes away or improves during the teenage years, but can come back later in life.
The symptoms can usually be controlled with treatment. Most people will have normal, active lives, although some people with more severe asthma may have ongoing problems.
Asthma In The Elderly: Can We Distinguish It From Copd
Eleni G. Tzortzaki
1Department of Thoracic Medicine, University Hospital of Heraklion and Medical School, University of Crete, Heraklion 71110, Crete, Greece
Asthma in older adults affects quality of life and results in a higher hospitalization rate and mortality. In common clinical practice, asthma in the elderly is underdiagnosed and undertreated or overdiagnosed and mistreated. The age-related reduction in perception of shortness of breath and the high incidence of comorbidities make the diagnosis and management more difficult and challenging for the physicians. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is usually easy to distinguish from asthma, but sometimes the distinction from late-onset asthma in older patients, particularly in cigarette smokers, is difficult and may be impossible. Both diseases are characterized by the presence of airflow obstruction but have distinct pathogenesis, inflammatory pattern, and prognosis. The distinction between Asthma and COPD based simply on spirometric parameters is difficult especially in the elderly asthmatics. The combination of lung function testing, bronchial hyperresponsiveness and atopy status, HRCT scans, and the newly developed biological techniques, allowing the assessment of biomarker profiles, could facilitate the distinction between these diseases.
The aim of this paper is to highlight the main and more useful tools for Asthma and COPD differentiation in the elderly.
4. Structural Changes
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When To See A Gp
See a GP if you think you or your child may have asthma.
Several conditions can cause similar symptoms, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and correct treatment.
The GP will usually be able to diagnose asthma by asking about symptoms and carrying out some simple tests.
Find out more about how asthma is diagnosed.
Can Allergies Go Away With Time
The short answer is yes.
Even if you develop allergies as an adult, you may notice they start to fade again when you reach your 50s and beyond.
This is because your immune function is reduced as you get older, so the immune response to allergens also becomes less severe.
Some allergies you have as a child may also go away when youre a teen and well into your adulthood, perhaps making only a few appearances throughout your life until they disappear permanently.
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How Asthma And Copd Are Similar
There are a number of ways that asthma and COPD are similar. This is what results in most of the confusion between the two different conditions. For example:1
- Both are chronic respiratory conditions with no known cure.
- Both have airways that are inflamed. leading to swelling, narrowing and blockage of the air passages.
- In both, the airways can overreact to certain allergens or other environmental conditions/substances.
- Both diseases can have the symptoms of: cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness.
- Both asthma and COPD are often treated with the same medications.
Preparing For Your Gp Appointment
A little bit of preparation can help you to get the most of your first GP appointment. It may even speed up the process so you can get diagnosed more quickly.
Have answers at the ready
Think about your family history.
- Does anyone in your family have asthma?
- Does anyone in your family have allergies?
- Do you have any allergies, including eczema or hay fever?
Your answers to these questions could help your GP work out if asthma is more likely.
Keep a diary of your symptoms
Note down how often and when you have symptoms. For example, are your symptoms worse at night, early in the morning, or when youre at work?
You could also make a note of what you think sets them off. Things that set off your asthma symptoms are called . Common asthma triggers include dust mites, cigarette smoke, and .
Keeping a diary or a chart of your symptoms and triggers can help your GP or asthma nurse see the pattern of your symptoms. Seeing how your symptoms are over time helps your GP to know if asthma is more likely.
Film symptoms on your phone
Asthma can come and go, so you could have no symptoms when you go and see your GP.
Try filming yourself on your phone or ask someone else to when youre having symptoms. Then you can show the GP or asthma nurse exactly what it was like, without having to try and describe it with words.
But dont delay getting help if symptoms are getting worse though!
Jot down your questions
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Causes And Triggers Of Asthma
Asthma is caused by swelling of the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. This makes the tubes highly sensitive, so they temporarily narrow.
It may happen randomly or after exposure to a trigger.
Common asthma triggers include:
- smoke, pollution and cold air
- infections like colds or flu
Identifying and avoiding your asthma triggers can help you keep your symptoms under control.
Other Ways To Stay Well In Later Life
Studies have shown that people who keep have more chance of staying healthy as they get older.
Even if your mobility isnt as good as it was or you find you get tired easily, there will be an activity you can do.
Keep to a healthy weight
Keeping to a healthy weight can lower your risk of asthma symptoms. Studies show that if youre very overweight, even losing a bit of weight, can make a difference to your asthma.
It can feel harder to shift the weight as you get older, particularly if youre less active than you were. Find out what support you can get.
If you smoke, youre more at risk from asthma symptoms and attacks, as well as COPD.
Giving up smoking not only lowers your risk, but it also means your medicines will be more effective.
Look after your mental health
If youre worried, down, or lonely, talk to someone about how you feel. Age UK has an Advice Line: 0800 169 2081.
Stress, anxiety and can all trigger asthma symptoms.
We all need a support network of friends, family and neighbours, says Dr Andy. Share your asthma action plan, so that anyone caring for you knows what to do if symptoms get worse and who to call for help. And tell your GP or asthma nurse how youre feeling too.
You can talk to a respiratory nurse specialist on our Helpline: 0300 222 5800 . Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728
Next review due December 2023
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Video: What Happens After Being Diagnosed With Asthma
Transcript of ‘What happens after being diagnosed with asthma?’
0:00 It can be really scary to be told you have asthma and it’s natural to worry about how it might affect your life. The
0:08 good news is that there’s lots of support out there to help you manage the condition and to help you to stay well.
0:15 You may wonder if your asthma can be cured. Well, even though we don’t have a cure for asthma at the moment, there’s so much we can do with the right medicines,
0:25 the right treatments, the right advice and support to help you stay well, so that the asthma won’t affect your life,
0:31 whether it be work or your play. You might find that when you’re just diagnosed with asthma it takes a little
0:38 bit of time to get your medicines just right so that you are living without symptoms every day. Be patient, hang on in there.
0:47 The most important thing is to develop a really good relationship with your doctor or nurse. With them you can draw up an asthma action plan, which you can
0:56 download from our website. That’ll really help you to manage your asthma well, and we know that you’re four times less likely to need to go to hospital if
1:04 you’ve got one of these. So, if you have just been diagnosed with asthma, try and stay positive. There’s so much you can do to stay well. You can visit our website,
1:14 or phone one of our friendly asthma nurse specialists, or even join a forum. Remember that we’re here to help.
Diagnosing Asthma And Copd With Pft
I explained how a PFT can help diagnose asthma in my post at Asthma.net: What Are PFTs? I explained how a PFT can hep diagnose COPD in my post on this site, What Are PFTs?
So, if you read those, you know what an FEV1 is. You know how this can be used to determine if you have COPD. Still, heres a quick review. You do a PFT. You do a pre and post FVC. A computer determines your FEV1. This is the best indicator of airflow limitation.
You then use a bronchodilator. This can be either an inhaler or breathing treatment. Then you do a second FVC. Heres how you determine if its asthma or COPD.
- COPD. By its basic definition, its persistent respiratory symptoms and airflow limitation. Your pre and post bronchodilator FEV1 is less than 80%. Your post bronchodilator FEV1 is not much different than your pre bronchodilator FEV1. This shows that airflow limitation is persistent. It is not reversed with time or treatment. This confirms a diagnosis of COPD.1
- Asthma. By its basic definition, respiratory symptoms and airflow limitation are intermittent and vary in intensity. Asthma attacks are reversible with time or treatment. Your post bronchodilator FEV1 improves by 12% or more. This shows airflow limitation is reversible. This can help make a diagnosis of asthma. 2
- Asthma and COPD. This is when you have both. Your airflow limitation is reversible. But, your FEV1 remains under 80% despite treatment.
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Signs You Actually Have Severe Asthma
Breathing is just one of those things you take for granted until it feels like every inhale or exhale is a struggle. Unfortunately, people with severe asthma have to deal with breathing issues way more often than anyone should, and it can be completely terrifying.
Asthma is a respiratory condition that affects the airways that extend from your nose and mouth to your lungs, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . When youre exposed to triggers like animal fur, pollen, mold, exercise, and respiratory infections, these airways can narrow, restricting your airflow. This can then make the muscles surrounding your airways constrict, making it even harder to breathe, and cause your airways to produce more mucus than normal, further compounding the problem. All together, this can lead to asthma symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing , and chest tightness or pain, according to the NHLBI.
Like most health conditions, asthma severity runs along a spectrum, Emily Pennington, M.D., a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. Some people have cases where they experience minor symptoms here and there . Others can have asthma that is basically an ever-present problem and might result in scary asthma attacks, which is when symptoms ramp up in severity and can even become life-threatening.
Asthma Triggers In Adults
People with asthma have airways that are more sensitive to some things that may not impact people without asthma. The things that set off or start symptoms are called triggers.
Adults with asthma are sensitive to the same kinds of triggers as younger people. However, every person with asthma has a different experience, and everyone may have a different trigger. You may have more than one trigger which flares up your asthma symptoms.
Triggers may include:
- in certain circumstances, thunderstorms.
Remember, for most people with asthma, triggers are only a problem when asthma is not well-controlled with preventer medicine.
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How Can Premature Birth Affect A Babys Lungs
Premature birth can cause a baby to have lung and breathing problems, including:
- Asthma. This is a health condition that affects the airways and can cause breathing problems.
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia . This is a lung disease that can develop in premature babies as well as babies who have treatment with a breathing machine. BPD can cause swelling and scarring in the lungs. Babies with BPD are more likely to get lung infections like pneumonia. Over time, the lungs usually get better, but a premature baby may have asthma-like symptoms or long-term lung damage throughout his life.
Don 70 Years Old And Never Had An Allergy In His Life
Don worked as a builder and decorator. He had a fairly active career involving heavy work and long days. Suddenly, in his late 60s his skin is so sensitive he now has to think about which washing powder to use and which shower gel and soap will not aggravate his skin. He can no longer eat peanut butter for his lunch every day because his body has decided enough is enough. Luckily for Don he recognised the symptoms and has been able to get to a situation where he can tolerate his most favourite of all foods occasionally and does not have a serious allergy. After years of watching me suffer with hives, eczema and painful itchy skin he suddenly has it himself he has a new understanding of the years of suffering me and my sister went through and is learning what triggers his outbreaks.
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What Is Asthma And What Causes It
Asthma can start during early childhood or develop later in life the cause is most often unknown or identified as an allergic response of the upper airways to any environmental triggers. An asthma attack cannot only be induced by allergens, but also by sudden changes of air humidity or temperature, as well as inhalation of fumes generated by evaporation of chemicals, or from cooking or heating. Besides inhaled triggers, asthma attacks can be resulted from psychological stress, sports or food allergens. The question which mechanism links all these diverse triggers to develop asthma remains open.
How Is Asthma Different In Older Adults
Most people with asthma experience their first symptoms at a young age. But asthma can develop for anyone at any age. It is not uncommon for adults in their 70s or 80s to develop asthma symptoms for the first time. When asthma does occur at a later age, the symptoms are much like those experienced by anyone else. The most common causes of an asthma flare up are a respiratory infection or virus, exercise, allergens, and air pollution . Allergens and irritants are substances found in our everyday environment. People who have asthma may experience wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
Asthma creates a much greater risk for older adults because they are more likely to develop respiratory failure as a result of the asthma, even during mild episodes of symptoms.
Did you know . . . Older patients with mild asthma symptoms can have the same level of breathing difficulty as younger asthma patients experiencing a severe asthma episode?
Unlike asthma in younger persons, asthma in older adults rarely goes into remission. Instead, asthma is more likely to remain a potentially serious, and many times, a disabling disease.
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Action Plans And Self
Action plans for exacerbations are effective in asthma, allowing patients to develop coping skills, anticipate early exacerbation symptoms, self-initiate appropriate treatment, and seek medical advice prior to significant deterioration. Trials assessing the effects of action plans in COPD management have shown conflicting results, with variable adjuncts to patient care likely contributors. Those with positive results, such as expedited exacerbation recovery and reduced hospital admissions, have included additional supports, such as intensive education and case management. In contrast, action plans with limited or no SME and no case management have little beneficial effect.
A recent randomized controlled trial that suggested an unexpected increase in all-cause and COPD-specific mortality with a comprehensive care management program including a COPD action plan for US veterans, highlighted the value of identifying those with adult-onset asthma for whom the benefits are well-documented. Putting this disturbing finding into the context of the COPD literature is important, and identifying factors predisposing to a poor outcome will be a challenge for those involved in developing clinical practice guidelines. While the association did not appear related to increasing age or COPD severity, these findings suggest that self-management programs may not be appropriate for all patients with COPD.
What Causes Adults To Develop Asthma
At least 30% of adult asthma cases are triggered by allergies. People who are allergic to cats may have an increased risk for developing adult onset asthma. Exposure to allergens or irritants such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, mold, dust, or other substances commonly found in the persons environment might trigger the first asthma symptoms in an adult.
Prolonged exposure to certain workplace materials may set off asthma symptoms in adults.
Hormonal fluctuations in women may play a role in adult onset asthma. Some women first develop asthma symptoms during or after a pregnancy. Women going through menopause can develop asthma symptoms for the first time.
Different illnesses, viruses, or infections can be a factor in adult onset asthma. A bad cold or a bout with the flu is often a factor in adult onset asthma.
Smoking does not cause adult onset asthma however, if you smoke or if you are exposed to cigarette smoke , it may provoke asthma symptoms.
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