What is Asthma?
Asthma causes the airways to swell, narrow, and produce mucus. This makes breathing difficult. The disease primarily affects the tubes that run from the throat and sinuses into the lungs. Normally, the job of your airway is to carry air down the pipe and into the lungs, but asthma inflames those tubes, sometimes to the point where you have to fight for every breath.
The typical symptoms of asthma include:
- Chest tightness
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing or whistling upon exhale
While many of these symptoms may remain low level for a time, an asthma attack is a sudden onset when these symptoms get worse. In a severe attack, the person’s breathing can become seriously compromised so that they end up in the emergency room. According to the AAFA, each day, 10 Americans die from asthma, so it’s important to manage your symptoms carefully with the help of your doctor.
What Causes Asthma?
The American Lung Association (ALA) says, “No one knows exactly what causes asthma.” What we do know is that asthma can be triggered by the following factors:
- Respiratory infection
Anyone can be afflicted with asthma and it can start at any time. According to the AAFA, one in 12 children get the disease and one in 13 adults. Dr. Aldarondo says, “In our practice we have patients in their 90s that have asthma. So, understand that adults can have asthma and it can be adult, or late-onset.”
What is Adult Asthma?
Adult asthma occurs when the first sign of the disease appears in an older person. We don’t yet know why asthma occurs at any age, let alone in adulthood. Smoking can trigger adult-onset asthma, but it isn’t the underlying cause.
Tobacco can cause a disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that manifests with similar symptoms to asthma. Other diseases, such as heart disorders, can cause wheezing that may seem like adult asthma.
Unfortunately, adult-onset asthma is a permanent condition. Dr. Aldarondo says, “The other thing to understand about asthma, is that, as a chronic inflammatory condition, it is not something that simply goes away.”
After middle age, lung function can decline. That’s why it’s so important to treat adult asthma so that the lungs don’t deteriorate more quickly and fail to recover. Dr. Aldarondo says, “If the symptoms are persistent, do the right thing by using certain medications that control the airway inflammation.”
How is Adult Asthma Treated?
Dr. Aldarondo says, “Asthma requires management. This can be something as simple as environmental control measures without the need for medication.” Once your doctor has diagnosed adult-onset asthma there are three things you must do to treat and maintain your health:
- Know your triggers for asthma and avoid them
- Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke
- Take your asthma medicine
Asthma triggers vary by individual, but can include:
- Allergies like dust mites, pet dander, or pollen
- Emotional stress including crying
- Flu or bronchial infection
- Medications such as aspirin
- Poor air quality, pollution, or cold air
- Tobacco smoke
- Some foods or food additives, although this is less common
Properly using your asthma medication will help you live a full life while managing the disease. Your doctor may prescribe from two primary categories of asthma medication:
Anti-inflammatory medications are very effective in controlling the disease. They consist of inhaled steroids to reduce the mucus production and swelling in your airways. This medication must be taken daily for several weeks to control adult-onset asthma symptoms. This type of medication can help increase airflow, prevent airway damage, and decrease asthma attacks. You may also be prescribed oral steroids for an acute flare-up until the symptoms are back under control.
Bronchodilators help relax the constricted airway muscles that cause them to tighten up during an asthma attack. When the airways open, you get more air and the mucus clogging the lungs can move, or be coughed out. These medications come in the form of a metered handheld inhaler and are safe for long-term maintenance to treat asthma symptoms. You may also have oral medications that can help.
It’s important to remember that once you have the condition, it can only be managed, not cured. However, Dr. Aldarondo says, “You do a lot of things to prevent asthma from exacerbating.”
How Can Pulmonary Care of Central Florida Help?
If you are part of the one in 13 adults or the one in 12 children suffering from asthma, you know how debilitating the condition can be. Seeing the team at Pulmonary Care of Central Florida is an important step toward managing your health.
Dr. Aldarondo has this to say about adult asthma, “This is one clear example in which a partnership with the patient and the clinician can make a big difference.” Dr. Aldarondo and his team work closely with adult patients to develop an asthma action plan to keep your asthma under control. This plan helps you understand how to properly use the prescribed asthma medications to control the disease and what to do if you have an asthma attack.
Asthma is a treatable condition. If you’re worried about this condition or are experiencing symptoms, please contact us. We are here to help you lead a healthy life.