Whilst asthma is most commonly recognized as a childhood illness, it can also develop in later life, affecting adults of all ages. In fact, nearly 50% of those diagnosed with asthma during their lifetime do not experience any symptoms until they are over 50 years of age.
What is asthma?
Characterized by attacks of breathlessness, wheezing, chest tightening and coughing, asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs. Those diagnosed with asthma will often have it for the rest of their lives, although attacks can be controlled and symptoms kept at bay with the correct medications and treatment.
Medical professionals are not exactly sure what causes asthma; there are different triggers for attacks, which vary from person to person. Allergic asthma is perhaps the most commonly occurring, caused by allergies to dust or pets, certain scents or fragrances, pollen, and air pollution. Intrinsic asthma, or non-allergic asthma, usually occurs later in life and tends to be more serious and persistent. It can be caused by inclement or humid weather conditions, the inhalation of irritants such as tobacco smoke or air pollution, physical exercise, respiratory infections, acid reflux, or heightened emotional responses. It can also follow bouts of cold or influenza, or occur as a reaction to certain medications or occupational hazards; this type of asthma is generally much harder to diagnose and control.
Asthma can be life limiting to sufferers of any age, but is particularly restrictive to those aged over 50 years, who are perhaps starting to look forward to a long and healthy retirement, or may be suffering with additional health complications. Asthma can limit physical activity, make it difficult for sufferers to attend work or partake in their favorite pastimes, and, in the most severe cases, lead to frequent visits to a physician or the emergency room.
Treating asthma in the over 50s
The symptoms of late-onset asthma can be difficult to control, and most asthma-related deaths occur in those aged over 45 years. For this reason, it is important for anyone suffering with asthma-related symptoms to seek medical advice to ensure that they are receiving the right type of care, and are able to administer their medication correctly and effectively.
The best way for a sufferer to control their asthma is to understand their symptoms so that they can quickly respond to, or prevent, an attack. It is also essential for them to avoid situations that make an attack more likely; this may mean keeping away from pets or households where smokers reside, avoiding aerosols, keeping their home well ventilated, removing carpets to limit dust mites, or regularly changing and washing bedclothes and linen.
Where trigger avoidance is insufficient, medication may be prescribed for the treatment of asthma. There are two main types of medication that may be given, usually administered either as an inhaler or in tablet form. The first is a group known as bronchodilators, or ‘relievers’. These offer short-term relief from symptoms of an attack in those who suffer mild or infrequent episodes. For those who suffer with more severe asthma, a ‘preventer’ may be prescribed; medications, such as Flovent, can help to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks with regular use.
Regular check-ups by a healthcare provider may be necessary to monitor the lungs and airflow of those suffering with asthma; a thorough check up will always be carried out before a patient is advised to buy Flovent, or similar medications. Those with new or worsening symptoms, such as drowsiness, confusion, restlessness or blue coloration, must always seek immediate medical attention.