What Causes Adult-Onset Asthma

You’ve been having some unusual symptoms lately. Sometimes you feel winded after even a slight exertion. Occasionally your chest feels tight, and you have a little trouble breathing. You’ve been coughing at night, and you notice a wheezing sound in your breath when you exhale.

It almost seems like asthma — but that’s not possible, because you’re an adult, and you’ve never had asthma before. You can’t develop it as an adult, right?

Wrong. The truth is, you can get asthma any time in your life. Although most people with asthma do develop it during childhood, it can also start during adulthood. In fact, it can appear as late as your 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond. When it does, it’s referred to as adult-onset asthma.

If you’re wondering about adult-onset asthma, Dr. Valdez has answers to your questions about this common condition. May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, so it’s an excellent time to learn about asthma, which affects about 8% of Americans.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition in which the airways that bring air in and out of your lungs become inflamed, swollen, and constricted. This can prevent enough air from getting to your lungs, leaving you short of breath and interfering with your ability to breathe normally. Asthma can cause a range of symptoms, including wheezing, excess mucus production, chest tightness, trouble breathing, and coughing, particularly in the morning or at night.

Who gets adult-onset asthma?

Although anyone can develop asthma later in life, it is more likely to occur in people with allergies. In fact, 30% of adult asthma is associated with allergies. That means any substance you’re allergic to, which is called an allergen, may trigger your asthma symptoms. People with cat allergies are particularly susceptible to adult-onset asthma.

Because adult asthma seems to be linked to hormones, it’s more common in women than in men and is especially likely to develop during and after pregnancy or menopause, when hormone levels fluctuate. Women who take supplemental estrogen may also develop adult-onset asthma. Risk is also higher in people who are obese.   

What triggers asthma?

Adult asthma can develop after you have a cold, flu, or other respiratory infection or illness. If you have asthma, certain things in the environment can trigger symptoms, including dust, cigarette smoke, pollen, specific smells, pet dander, smog, air pollution, mold, workplace chemicals, certain foods, or even exercise.

What should you do if you think you have adult-onset asthma?

Call our office to set up an appointment right away. Asthma is a serious condition that requires attention. When you see Dr. Valdez, he asks you questions about your symptoms and conducts a physical exam. You may do a simple lung function test using a device known as a spirometer, which measures how much air you’re able to exhale from your lungs. Dr. Valdez may also order a chest X-ray or other tests to see how well your lungs are working and to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

How is adult asthma treated?

Medication can help keep asthma under control. The type of medications you need depends on how serious and persistent your symptoms are. Some asthma medications are taken every day; others are only used when you’re having asthma symptoms, such as wheezing or trouble breathing.

What is an asthma management plan?

If you have asthma, Dr. Valdez works with you to create an asthma management plan that’s designed specifically for you, with your symptoms and health history in mind. Your asthma management plan includes guidelines on what you should do if your asthma symptoms get worse.

If Dr. Valdez gives you an asthma management plan, be sure you understand it completely and follow all directions exactly as written. It’s important to take it seriously because asthma attacks can be serious or even fatal.  

Will you need to use an inhaler?

Some asthma medicines do require the use of an inhaler, which we can teach you how to use. You may also learn how to use a device known as a “peak flow meter,” which is an easy way to determine how well your lungs are working at home.

What else can you do to breathe easy?

In addition to taking any necessary medications, be sure to avoid your specific allergens and anything else that triggers your asthma. For example, remove known allergens from your home. If pollen causes trouble, stay indoors on days when pollen counts are high and run an air conditioner with a HEPA allergen-removing air filter. By following your asthma management plan and avoiding known triggers, you can help prevent your symptoms.  

If you’re having asthma symptoms, call us to set up an appointment with Dr. Valdez. With an asthma management plan in place, you can breathe easier.

You Might Also Enjoy...

The Link Between Diabetes and Obesity

Obesity is a major contributing factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. Because it’s a chronic condition that can lead to fatality if left untreated, we’re here to provide you with effective ways to lower your weight and your risk.

What Every Woman Should Know About Heart Disease

Women and men are different in many ways, but when it comes to heart disease, the differences are huge. Find out about the unique risks women face when it comes to cardiovascular disease and how you can improve your heart health.

Treatment of Hypertension in the Elderly

As you age, your risk for hypertension increases. Having hypertension increases your risk of stroke, heart failure, and more. Jose Valdez, MD explains what you can do to stay healthy and manage your hypertension as you enjoy your golden years.

Asthma Attack Triggers You Should Be Aware Of

Asthma attacks can disrupt your life. The wheezing, hacking, and breathlessness are debilitating, and in extreme cases, asthma can threaten your life. Find out the most common asthma triggers so you can take steps to keep your asthma under control.