Can Asthma Develop in Adulthood?

Can Asthma Develop in Adulthood?

The short answer is yes, you can develop asthma in adulthood. We call it adult-onset asthma, and oftentimes it can be worse than asthma that begins earlier in life. 

Here, Dr. Megan Dillman at MD2 takes a closer look at what’s going on when asthma attacks adults. 

What is asthma?

Asthma is a disorder that impacts your lung function and causes symptoms, such as shortness of breath, frequent coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and chest tightness. This happens because swelling, inflammation, and/or muscle contractions narrow your airways. Sometimes, asthma symptoms are brought on by an overproduction of mucus. 

Typically, asthma is a problem for the younger generation, but this chronic condition can develop at virtually any age. Here’s what you should know about adult-onset asthma.

Why am I struggling with asthma as an adult? 

There are a few reasons why you’re suddenly struggling with asthma as an adult. Some of the most common triggers for adult-onset asthma include the following:

Most adults who develop asthma also live with an allergy, especially if you have an allergy to cats. 

Sometimes, adult-onset asthma stems from gradual structural changes. As you reach middle age, the muscles in your chest wall become stiffer, which can contribute to lower lung function. 

Other risks for adult-onset asthma include a family history of asthma, living with smokers, and living in urban areas.

We diagnose asthma by first reviewing your medical history and symptoms and listening to your breathing. We also perform a lung function test with a spirometer to evaluate how much air you exhale after taking a deep breath and how fast you can empty your lungs. We also use a peak flow meter to measure the force of your exhale. 

Once we’ve determined that you have asthma, we classify it into one of four categories. These categories are based on the frequency of symptoms and other factors, such as your peak flow and/or spirometry results. 

The four categories are mild intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, and serve persistent. Mild intermittent asthma is the mildest type, with symptoms occurring less than twice a week. Severe persistent asthma, on the other hand, means that you have continuous symptoms, and you may even struggle to participate in your normal activities. 

What can I do about adult-onset asthma?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for adult-onset asthma. There are, however, a variety of ways to effectively manage your asthma long term. Whenever we recommend a treatment plan, our main goal is to help you do the following:

Some of the most common asthma treatments include inhalers, quick-relief medications, controller medications, corticosteroids, and leukotriene modifiers. We also focus on helping you avoid triggers that exacerbate your symptoms. 

Are you ready to get a handle on your asthma? Don’t wait another day. Request an appointment at our Lakeville, Minnesota, office by calling 952-283-0608. 

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