Changes in asthma with age

asmthaWith all of the coughing and wheezing you have been doing, it can be hard to figure out what’s wrong. Are you out of shape, do you have allergies, feeling a little sick, or do you have asthma?

For most people asthma is diagnosed as a child, but there are cases that may develop later in life.

Allergist Karim Dhanani, MD specializes in asthma, as well as treating allergies and immunology. Dr. Dhanani sees patients at the Scott & White Round Rock Clinic, assisting with a wide range of allergy and asthma cases.

“Asthma can happen at any age, and contrary to common thinking, it can happen in older adults, even the elderly,” says Dr. Dhanani.

A Complex Condition

The definition of asthma is complex, and many doctors over the years have worked to properly define the condition.

Dr. Dhanani says, “Asthma is essentially inflammation of the airways, with subsequent and periodic spasms of the airways that leads to obstruction of the airways. This temporary obstruction leads to the sensation of shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing.”

For those with asthma, you’re probably familiar with the symptoms. But you may wonder, will it ever go away?

From Childhood to Adulthood

The majority of asthma develops before the age of seven, but there is a chance it could go away.

“For some people asthma does dramatically improve,” says Dr. Dhanani. “In children, there is a higher chance of it disappearing, called remission. In adults, there is less chance of remission, but the risk of deterioration in lung function is lower.”

A lot of times, teenagers will notice a resolution of symptoms around the time of puberty, and then milder symptoms may return as an adult.

Dealing with asthma can feel like a rollercoaster. You may have been diagnosed as a child, noticed less symptoms as you became a teenager, and then dealt with milder symptoms as an adult. But if you have asthma, you should be aware of the triggers that may cause your coughing or wheezing.

“Asthma triggers for an individual likely do change over the course of their lifetime,” says Dr. Dhanani. “Typical triggers may include pollens, animal dander, cockroach allergen, dust, and even irritants like smoke. Allergic triggers are more likely to be responsible for asthma flares in children than adults.”

Nasal Symptoms and Asthma

Often nasal allergy symptoms go hand-in-hand with asthma. That means if you can get control of your nasal allergies it can help keep your asthma in check.

“If your symptoms are severe, you may need daily medications to keep the function of your lungs preserved, as frequent exacerbations can lead to deterioration,” says Dr. Dhanani.

Of course, Dr. Dhanani also mentions refraining from smoking is vital in addition to managing your medications.

Getting the Right Diagnosis

Your allergist can help determine if the asthma is being triggered by an external environmental source (extrinsic asthma) or not (intrinsic asthma).

If it is related to the environment, your doctor can give you tips to help avoid the trigger, or give you allergy shots to diminish the effects.

“We also can help prove or disprove whether the patient has asthma with various testing methods like pulmonary function tests, as a lot of people are misdiagnosed,” says Dr. Dhanani.

If you are unsure if you have asthma, or want to know more about your condition, talk to your doctor. An allergist’s main goal is to guide your treatment and manage your asthma medications as necessary.

“Asthma by itself does not seem to lower life expectancy,” says Dr. Dhanani. “For those patients that have severe disease, there are lots of treatment options, and generally everyone can live a productive life if followed regularly in clinic by an asthma specialist.”

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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Changes in asthma with age