• Discover Asthma

    on Mar 27th, 2018

All About Adult-Onset Asthma

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimates that about 25 million people in the United States have asthma. Most people are diagnosed with it in childhood. Despite popular myths, you don’t outgrow this chronic lung disorder. Once you have asthma, you have it.

Many people, however, first experience the wheezing, shortness of breath, and other symptoms related to asthma in their 20s, 30s, and beyond. The symptoms can occur every day, infrequently, or only at certain times, such as when you exercise.

It can feel overwhelming at first to face a diagnosis like asthma, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly since an asthma attack can become life-threatening. But we can simplify the dos and don’ts of asthma and create an action plan that helps get your breathing and your anxiety about adult-onset asthma under control.    

The facts about asthma

Asthma causes your airways to narrow, swell, and produce excess mucus. This can make you cough, wheeze, and feel short of breath as you struggle to get enough air in and out of your lungs. It’s sometimes difficult to diagnose since the symptoms can mimic colds and viral infections that settle in your chest.

One of the symptoms that often leads us to a diagnosis of adult-onset asthma, however, is when your respiratory discomfort lingers much longer than the three to 10 days we typically expect for a cold or virus to run its course and completely resolve.

Other symptoms of asthma include:

For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. Your symptoms may only occur with exercise. For others, it’s a major problem that interferes with your daily activities.

Discovering your asthma triggers

We can’t be sure why some people develop asthma and others don’t. It may be related to genetics, since asthma often runs in families. Environmental factors such as air pollution or exposure to secondhand smoke may be responsible, but not everyone in a polluted environment develops asthma.

We can help you identify what we call asthma triggers, which are the exposures or activities that can lead to an asthma attack. You can help us identify these triggers by keeping a diary or otherwise taking note of when your symptoms are likely to occur.

Everyone is different, and you may find you have several triggers, but the most common include:

Emotional stress is also a trigger for some people. This can occur when you’re feeling stressed about difficulties in your life or when you’re excited about good news. An asthma flare-up also sends signals of distress to your brain which may trigger production of certain “flight or fight” hormones, such as adrenaline, that also create anxiety. This can cause an unfortunate loop of asthma triggering anxiety and anxiety triggering asthma.

Treating adult-onset asthma

Long-term asthma treatment starts with determining your lung function. This is often accomplished with a simple diagnostic test that requires you to fill your lungs to capacity and then blow into a peak flow meter. It’s a handheld device that measures how much air you’re blowing out, which helps us calculate how much air you’re taking in.

From there, and depending on how frequently you experience symptoms, we may recommend what we call a maintenance inhaler. This contains medication that’s designed to reduce the inflammation in your airways. It’s meant for long-term use, however, and can’t help with an urgent asthma flare-up.

We also send you home with a prescription for a rescue inhaler that’s designed to offer quick relief of your symptoms when you develop an unexpected asthma attack. The medication in a rescue inhaler relaxes the muscles in your airways that constrict during an asthma attack, which allows more air into your lungs.

Along with medications, we prescribe a peak flow meter for home use and instruct you about how to interpret the readings and know when your asthma control is worsening. We’ll want to see you back urgently anytime your asthma doesn’t seem controlled and for periodic follow-up visits to evaluate how well you’re responding to your medications.  

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Saint Louis, MO 63132
Phone: 314-391-4485
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