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Why does adult-onset asthma develop?

why does adult onset asthma develop

Adults may develop asthma symptoms and be diagnosed with adult-onset asthma. Adults may develop asthma at 40, 60, or even later. Allergies can cause airway inflammation leading to asthma. Adult-onset asthma is associated with greater symptoms and medication use compared to pediatric-onset disease.

Though certain risk factors make asthma more likely, we don’t know why some adults develop asthma. The CARDIA study found that adult onset-asthma becomes the most common type of asthma in women by the age of 40. Certain factors, such as smoking, increase the likelihood that an adult female will develop asthma. For men, however, pediatric-onset asthma is more common. The evolution of pediatric asthma is not well understood because follow up in long term studies can be difficult when patients enter adulthood. Asthma can also become less symptomatic and then flare again in adulthood.

An asthma diagnosis later in life can be confusing for patients since asthma is often presumed to develop in childhood. Though many patients have lifelong asthma, it is not unusual to diagnose asthma in an adult with chronic cough or difficulty breathing. Allergists consider a wide range of causes of cough and shortness of breath with a particular focus on allergic causes. Adult patients who meet criteria for asthma on breathing tests may see improvement in quality of life with simple inhaled medication treatment combined with avoidance of allergens. We also consider occupational exposures that may contribute to asthma symptoms when identifying triggers.

If oral or inhaled medications do not control symptoms, there are newer medications that target the immune system, including the body’s allergic pathways. Biologic medications for asthma are an exciting treatment modality that have grown with multiple new medications in the last five years. Several new medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of asthma can reduce exacerbations and improve control in adults with asthma.

At your visit with Richmond Allergy and Asthma Specialists, we will evaluate your respiratory symptoms and strive to identify strategies and treatments to improve your symptoms. We evaluate patients of all ages with difficulty breathing and cough.

von Elten newMD

Author: Kelley von Elten MD

Dr. von Elten is board-certified in Allergy and Immunology by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. In addition to seeing patients at Richmond Allergy and Asthma Specialists, she stays busy raising three sons with her husband.