Asthma is a condition that is characterized by inflammation of air passages that result in the temporary narrowing of airways that transport art from the nose and mouth to the lungs. This is caused by inhaled allergens. Asthma symptoms can vary from person to person but generally include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. In severe cases, asthma can be fatal.
Asthma is more common among children than adults. Many people develop asthma in childhood. However, asthma symptoms can appear at any time in life. Adult onset asthma may or may not be caused by allergies. Some individuals who had allergies as children or young adults with no asthma symptoms could develop asthma as older adults. Other times, adults become sensitized to everyday substances found in their homes or food and suddenly begin to experience asthma symptoms. About 50 percent of older adults who have asthma are allergic.
At least 30 percent of adult asthma cases are triggered by allergies. People allergic to cats may have an increased risk for developing adult onset asthma. Exposure to cigarette smoke, mold, dust, feather bedding, perfume or other substances commonly found in the person’s environment may trigger the first asthma symptoms.
Unlike children who often experience intermittent asthma symptoms in response to allergy triggers or respiratory infections, adults with newly diagnosed asthma generally have persistent symptoms. Daily medications may be required to keep asthma under control. After middle age, most adults experience a decrease in their lung capacity. These changes in lung function may lead some physicians to overlook asthma as a possible diagnosis. Untreated asthma can contribute to even greater loss of lung function. Check with your doctor if you believe you are exhibiting asthmatic symptoms.