June is Seniors’ Month.
Asthma used to be considered a childhood disease. While it’s true that most people with asthma experience their first symptoms at a young age, asthma can actually develop for anyone, at any age. Adults well into their 60s, 70s and 80s can develop asthma symptoms for the first time. Older adults with asthma experience the same symptoms as kids with asthma, except unlike children, it’s unlikely that their asthma will go into remission. Asthma is also riskier for older adults, because they’re more prone to respiratory failure during episodes of symptoms, even mild flare ups.
Asthma is one of the most commonly under-diagnosed and under-treated diseases, particularly in older populations. Late onset asthma can be difficult to diagnose. Common symptoms like chest tightness, shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing are broad symptoms that could be attributed to a number of other diseases commonly seen in seniors, like congestive heart failure and COPD. In addition to asthma symptoms being misattributed to different conditions, there’s less awareness of asthma in older patients, and some patients may write off their difficulty breathing as a general symptom of aging, not asthma. For seniors, delays in diagnosis and treatment can contribute to a worsening of condition with more severe exacerbations. More adults than children die every year as a result of asthma.
Treatment of asthma in the elderly population isn’t much different than it is for younger asthma patients. Trigger control, medication optimization, and effective education about what to do in case of a flare up are all important components of an effective asthma treatment plan for asthma patients of any age.
If you or a loved one has asthma, learn more about Burlington Lung Clinic’s clinical respiratory services.