Are You Over Twenty? Having Trouble Breathing? You May Have Adult-Onset Asthma

Are You Over Twenty? Having Trouble Breathing? You May Have Adult-Onset Asthma

Posted on August 15, 2012 by Barbara Cybart in Asthma Treatments

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease characterized by the narrowing and inflammation of airways and large, thick mucus production which are triggered by an allergen. This provokes several distinctive symptoms: shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing and a tightness of the chest, among others.

When an asthma diagnosis is made in people aged 20 or older it is labeled as adult-onset asthma. Several factors may put you at risk for adult-onset asthma:

  • (For women) Undergoing hormonal changes, such as menopause or pregnancy
  • (For women) Taking estrogen for 10 years or more after menopause
  • Undergoing certain illnesses such as, a cold or the flu
  • Having allergies
  • Exposure to environmental irritants, such as tobacco smoke, mold, dust, feather beds, or perfume

The difference between childhood and adult-onset asthma is that childhood-onset asthma symptoms may be experienced intermittently, while the symptoms of adult-onset asthma can be felt constantly. People with continuous adult-onset asthma symptoms need to take medication daily to manage their condition. The reason that some adults may be subjected to unrelenting asthma symptoms is that after middle age, people tend to have a smaller lung capacity[1]. After 20 years of ages changes in the chest muscles begin occurring resulting in the stiffening of chest walls. Furthermore, as the stiffening of the chest wall is a common by product of transitioning from childhood to adult life, doctors may overlook the diagnosis of adult-onset asthma.

However, if the doctor does suspect that you may have adult-onset asthma they can diagnose it through a variety of tests:

After diagnosis, treatment with either anti-inflammatory or bronchodilator medication begins. As there is currently no cure for asthma, the goal of treatment is to control adult-onset asthma symptoms and enable the person with adult-onset asthma to live a normal, active life.

Are you newly diagnosed? Leave a comment below to let us know if this article was helpful for you.


[1] Lung capacity: the volume of air you are able to take in and forcibly exhale in one second http://www.medicinenet.com/adult-onset_asthma/page2.htm

[2] Spirometer: an instrument for measuring the air entering and leaving the lungs http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spirometer