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Signs Of Asthma In Adults

Recognizing Asthma Signs And Symptoms In Adults

Asthma in Adults. Adult-onset Asthma symptoms and Treatment

You can develop asthma as an adult or a child. Adults dont always recognize their asthma signs and symptoms, however. One of the reasons that its difficult to identify asthma in adults is because people tend to think of asthma as a childhood disease. Asthma at any age can be dangerous. Make sure you realize that the disease can develop in adulthood, and know how to recognize signs and symptoms of asthma.

Cigarette Smoke And Asthma

Cigarette smoke is a common trigger for asthma symptoms. Many other respiratory illnesses are caused and made worse by smoking, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Managing symptoms will become easier for people with asthma if they are able to quit smoking or avoid being around people who are smoking.

Although quitting can be difficult, there are many effective treatment options available which you can discuss with your doctor or pharmacist.

Asthma Doesnt Go Away On Its Own

It can be tempting to ignore these symptoms and hope it goes away on its own, but this isnt something you should ignore, says Dr. Gerber.

Acute asthma attacks can damage the lungs over time, and can even be potentially life threatening

Therefore, its important to do everything you can to control asthma.

This starts with getting an accurate diagnosis, making a treatment plan with your doctor, and then doing your best to structure your daily life to avoid triggers and manage your symptoms.

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Adult Versus Childhood Asthma

When a child is diagnosed with asthma, they typically experience symptoms intermittently. They might develop symptoms when exposed to specific triggers or a respiratory infection.

In contrast, adults diagnosed with asthma later in life usually have persistent symptoms.

Asthma in adults can also be more challenging to manage. This is because its more common for adult asthmatics to experience faster lung function decline than children. Likewise, adults are more likely to die from an asthma attack than children.

3,524² people died from asthma in 2019. As a result, its common for adult asthmatics to regularly take preventative asthma medications or have other asthma medications on hand to treat symptoms when they develop.

Sign Of Asthma In Adults Types Causes And Treatment

What Is Asthma?

Asthma in adults is a serious condition that affects the air passages of the lungs. Asthma makes breathing difficult because the muscles around the airways tighten and swell. This swelling can make the airways narrower, causing wheezing which is heard when you breathe in or out. Although asthma can occur at any age, its most common in children and teens.

Asthma affects millions of people around the world. In the United States alone, over 25 million adults all over the country suffer from some kind of type of asthma.

While there is no cure for asthma, treatment can help control symptoms so that you can lead a more active life.

In This Article

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Why Is My Asthma Worse At Night

Asthma that gets worse at night is sometimes called nighttime asthma or nocturnal asthma. There are no definite reasons that this happens, but there are some educated guesses. These include:

  • The way you sleep: Sleeping on your back can result in mucus dripping into your throat or acid reflux coming back up from your stomach. Also, sleeping on your back puts pressure on your chest and lungs, which makes breathing more difficult. However, lying face down or on your side can put pressure on your lungs.
  • Triggers in your bedroom and triggers that happen in the evening: You may find your blankets, sheets and pillows have dust mites, mold or pet hair on them. If youve been outside in the early evening, you may have brought pollen in with you.
  • Medication side effects: Some drugs that treat asthma, such as steroids and montelukast, can affect your sleep.
  • Air thats too hot or too cold: Hot air can cause airways to narrow when you breathe in. Cold air is an asthma trigger for some people.
  • Lung function changes: Lung function lessens at night as a natural process.
  • Asthma is poorly controlled during the day: Symptoms that arent controlled during the day wont be better at night. Its important to work with your provider to make sure your asthma symptoms are controlled both day and night. Treating nighttime symptoms is very important. Serious asthma attacks, and sometimes deaths, can happen at night.

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.

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Why Does My Asthma Act Up At Night

Asthma can get worse at night. If you have symptoms at night, it’s called nighttime asthma. This is often a sign of uncontrolled asthma. It probably has to do with natural body rhythms and changes in your body’s hormones. With the right asthma management and treatment, you should be able to sleep through the night.

You Have A Cough That Doesnt Go Away

Warning Signs of Adult Onset Asthma

Most of us associate a cough with a cold or bronchitis, but it can also signal asthma. Your cough becomes worse after you laugh or lie downand it comes from the chest, not the throat, says Dr. Lockey. In one type of asthma, known as cough-variant asthma, the only symptom is a chronic cough. The best treatment for people with cough-variant asthma tends to be prescription medication, as over-the-counter varieties arent strong enough to offer relief.

Is that lingering cough simply annoying or the sign of something much worse? Find out when to worry about a cough.

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Reducing The Burden Of Asthma

Asthma cannot be cured, but good management with inhaled medications can control the disease and enable people with asthma to enjoy a normal, active life.

There are two main types of inhaler:

  • bronchodilators , that open the air passages and relieve symptoms and
  • steroids , that reduce inflammation in the air passages. This improves asthma symptoms and reduces the risk of severe asthma attacks and death.

People with asthma may need to use their inhaler every day. Their treatment will depend on the frequency of symptoms and the different types of inhalers available.

It can be difficult to coordinate breathing using an inhaler, especially for children and during emergency situations. Using a spacer device makes it easier to use an aerosol inhaler and helps the medicine to reach the lungs more effectively. A spacer is a plastic container with a mouthpiece or mask at one end and a hole for the inhaler in the other. A homemade spacer, made from a 500ml plastic bottle, can be as effective as a commercially manufactured inhaler.

Access to inhalers is a problem in many countries. In 2021, bronchodilators were available in public primary health care facilities in half of low- and low-middle income countries, and steroid inhalers available in one third.

Asthma Is A Complex Condition

Occasionally, people with asthma experience what are known as silent symptoms. This is where the signs of the tightening of the airways dont result in the familiar asthma sounds of wheezing and coughing. If you or someone you live with, work with, or care for experiences silent symptoms, it is important they consult a doctor for an ongoing Asthma Action Plan. People around the person with asthmasuch as co-workers, school teachers or daycare educators should know about the silent symptoms so they can respond if needed. Asthma can start at any age, and can be more of a problem when it starts in older adults. Dont assume if you never had asthma as a child that its not possible to develop symptoms now. Being breathless is not a normal part of getting older, it should always be checked out by a doctor.

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Box 2 Alternative Causes Of Symptoms Suggestive Of Asthma*

  • Other obstructive lung diseases

  • Hyperventilation syndrome and panic attacks

  • Vocal cord dysfunction

  • Recurrent viral infections of the lower respiratory tract

  • Mechanical obstruction of the airways:

  • Congenital malformations of the airways

  • Upper airway obstruction

  • Nonobstructive lung diseases

  • Extrapulmonary diseases

  • Dyspnea can have respiratory, cardiac, hematologic, neuromuscular or psychosomatic causes, but the pattern of symptoms associated with this problem may point to the specific diagnosis . Distinguishing asthma from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a common clinical challenge. Asthma is associated with variable symptoms that often worsen after exposure to triggers and with nocturnal symptoms . In contrast, patients with COPD tend to experience a gradual increase in symptoms over time, with exacerbations often being related to infectious precipitants . Also, COPD is characterized by irreversible or only partially reversible airflow obstruction and results from an abnormal inflammatory response to noxious agents. Asthma and COPD can coexist, particularly in people who smoke., Validated symptom-based questionnaires and diagnostic algorithms, designed for use in countries without the capabilities to objectively measure lung function, can be used to differentiate these conditions.

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    Can Asthma Be Cured

    What Are The Causes Of Asthma?

    There is currently no known cure for asthma, but with proper diagnosis and asthma management it is fully possible for people with asthma to live healthy, active and symptom-free lives.

    There is still much research that needs to be done to fully understand how to prevent, treat and cure asthma. Asthma Canadas National Research Program is committed to supporting leading asthma researchers and graduate student researchers working to expand our knowledge and one day, unlock a cure.

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    Symptoms Of A Life Threatening Attack

    The following signs and symptoms may indicate a life threatening situation:

    • Anxiety or panic
    • Grogginess, confusion, or difficulty talking

    Asthma often progresses very slowly, but it may sometimes develop to a fatal or near-fatal attack within a few minutes. It is very difficult to predict when an attack will become very serious. Any symptoms that suggest a serious attack should be immediately treated with a rescue bronchodilator. If symptoms persist, call for emergency help.

    Personal Asthma Action Plan

    As part of your initial assessment, you should be encouraged to draw up a personal asthma action plan with your GP or asthma nurse.

    If you’ve been admitted to hospital because of an asthma attack, you should be offered an action plan before you go home.

    The action plan should include information about your asthma medicines, and will help you recognise when your symptoms are getting worse and what steps to take. You should also be given information about what to do if you have an asthma attack.

    Your personal asthma action plan should be reviewed with your GP or asthma nurse at least once a year, or more frequently if your symptoms are severe.

    As part of your asthma plan, you may be given a peak flow meter. This will give you another way of monitoring your asthma, rather than relying only on symptoms, so you can recognise deterioration earlier and take appropriate steps.

    Read further information:

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    Symptoms Of Adult Asthma

    Symptoms of adult-onset asthma are very similar to that of childhood asthma. They can include any or all of the following:

    • Pressure or tightness in the chest
    • Shortness of breath
    • Colds that have a duration past 10 days
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Trouble sleeping due to inconsistent breathing, which can lead to fatigue

    To determine if you have adult asthma, your healthcare provider will inquire about your medical history and may perform a lung function test, to see how fast you can empty air from your lungs. They may also perform a methacholine challenge test, which will cause your airways to narrow and spasm if you indeed have asthma. These tests allow your healthcare provider to make an official diagnosis.

    If you are diagnosed with asthma, you may be classified in one of four categories, based on the frequency and severity of your symptoms: mild intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent and severe persistent. This classification can help determine the best course of treatment.

    What Is Asthma In Adults

    Adult Asthma – Overview (signs and symptoms, pathophysiology, investigations and treatment)
    • Asthma is a disorder of the lungs, which causes the airways of the lungs to be affected. It occurs as a result of excessive sensitivity of the lung airways, to various stimuli
    • Swelling and narrowing of the airways occur, which results in a variety of symptoms, such as wheezing, difficulty in breathing, persistent cough, and painful chest tightness
    • When Asthma is diagnosed in people older than 20 years, it is called Adult-Onset Asthma

    Asthma may be of various kinds, namely:

    • Mild intermittent Asthma

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    How Can You Tell If Your Child Has Asthma

    For all children, especially the younger ones, look at the gap at the bottom of their neck, where it meets the breast bone. When that area appears to be sucking in an out during breathing, this is a sign of difficulty breathing. Same for the spaces between the ribs, when they are appearing such in and out, this is a sign of breathing difficulty

    Side Effects Of Steroid Tablets

    Oral steroids carry a risk if they are taken for more than three months or if they are taken frequently . Side effects can include:

    • muscle weakness

    With the exception of increased appetite, which is very commonly experienced by people taking oral steroids, most of these unwanted effects are uncommon.

    However, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for them regularly, especially side effects that are not immediately obvious, such as high blood pressure, thinning of the bones, diabetes and glaucoma.

    You will need regular appointments to check for these.

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    Worsening Or Severe Asthma:

    Increased frequency and/or severity of asthma symptoms may require a change in the treatment regimen or an increase in the amount of medication taken. A course of corticosteroid medication injected into a blood vein or in tablet form, may be prescribed until symptoms are controlled. Severe asthma attacks may require hospitalisation to control symptoms. Relieving medication may need to be given using a nebuliser or intravenously .

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    Asthma 7 Facts: With Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

    Simple Lipids. The main simple lipids are triglycerides , steryl esters, and wax esters. Hydrolysis of these lipids yields glycerol and fatty acids, sterols and fatty acids, and fatty alcohols plus fatty acids, respectively. The most important of these simple lipids for food scientists are the triglycerides.

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    Tests Of Bronchial Hyperreactivity

    When spirometry is normal, but symptoms and the clinical history are suggestive of asthma, measurement of airway responsiveness using direct airway challenges to inhaled bronchoconstrictor stimuli or indirect challenges may help confirm a diagnosis of asthma.

    Tests of bronchial hyperreactivity should be conducted in accordance with standardized protocols in a pulmonary function laboratory or other facility equipped to manage acute bronchospasm. Bronchopovocation testing involves the patient inhaling increasing doses or concentrations of an inert stimulus until a given level of bronchoconstriction is achieved, typically a 20% fall in FEV1. An inhaled rapid-acting bronchodilator is then provided to reverse the obstruction. Test results are usually expressed as the provocative dose or provocative concentration of the provoking agent that causes the FEV1 to drop by 20% . For methacholine, most pulmonary function laboratories use a PC20 value less than 4-8 mg/mL as the threshold for a positive result indicative of airway hyperreactivity, supporting a diagnosis of asthma. However, positive challenge tests are not specific to asthma and may occur with other conditions such as allergic rhinitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease . Therefore, tests of bronchial hyperreactivity may be most useful for ruling out asthma among individuals who are symptomatic. A negative test result in a symptomatic patient not receiving anti-inflammatory therapy is highly sensitive .

    What Asthma Treatment Options Are There

    You have options to help manage your asthma. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to control symptoms. These include:

    • Bronchodilators: These medicines relax the muscles around your airways. The relaxed muscles let the airways move air. They also let mucus move more easily through the airways. These medicines relieve your symptoms when they happen and are used for intermittent and chronic asthma.
    • Anti-inflammatory medicines: These medicines reduce swelling and mucus production in your airways. They make it easier for air to enter and exit your lungs. Your healthcare provider may prescribe them to take every day to control or prevent your symptoms of chronic asthma.
    • Biologic therapies for asthma: These are used for severe asthma when symptoms persist despite proper inhaler therapy.

    You can take asthma medicines in several different ways. You may breathe in the medicines using a metered-dose inhaler, nebulizer or another type of asthma inhaler. Your healthcare provider may prescribe oral medications that you swallow.

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    How Asthma Is Treated

    While there is no cure for asthma, there are a number of treatments that can help control the condition.

    Treatment is based on two important goals, which are:

    • relieving symptoms
    • preventing future symptoms and attacks

    For most people, this will involve the occasional or, more commonly, daily use of medications, usually taken using an inhaler. However, identifying and avoiding possible triggers is also important.

    You should have a personal asthma action plan agreed with your doctor or nurse that includes information about the medicines you need to take, how to recognise when your symptoms are getting worse, and what steps to take when they do so.

    These symptoms are often worse at night and early in the morning, particularly if the condition is not well controlled. They may also develop or become worse in response to a certain trigger, such as exercise or exposure to an allergen.

    Read our page on the causes of asthma for more information about potential triggers.

    Speak to your GP if you think you or your child may have asthma. You should also talk to your doctor or asthma nurse if you have been diagnosed with asthma and you are finding it difficult to control the symptoms.


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