Did you know this common disease worsens as you age?
Do you or someone you know suffer from asthma?
The answer to this question is most likely yes.
Although many people regard asthma as a disease that affects school-aged children, it is common in adults, as well.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.2 million children under the age of 18 years old (8.4 percent of the total U.S. population under 18 years) and 18.4 million adults over the age of 18 in the U.S. (7.4 percent of the country’s adult population) live with asthma.
The CDC reports that asthma was the cause of 6.5 percent of all doctors’ visits last year, including 1.6 million emergency room visits. More than 3,000 asthma-related deaths occurred last year.
One factor that many people do not realize is that asthma worsens and becomes more acute with age. Most people with asthma are diagnosed with the disease at a young age, but it stays with them the rest of their lives. Asthma is also becoming a more prevalent disease, and there is an increase in the amount of people over the age of 65 with asthma. The death rate in people with asthma is five times higher in older adults then in younger people.
“Asthma in the older population may go unrecognized, as symptoms can mimic those of other conditions,” states Sylvia Scrima, advanced practice nurse at Advocate Sherman West Court in Elgin, Ill. “Left untreated, asthma can lead to serious complications, lengthy acute illness and recovery as well as chronic debility; especially in older adults with chronic medical conditions.”
Since asthma is a condition in the respiratory system, it hinders breathing and inflames the lungs. The problem with the disease in older adults is that over time, their lungs lose elasticity, the muscles used to breathe are less strong and the walls of their chest cavities become more rigid.
Treating the disease in seniors can also be more difficult. Using an inhaler is not always as easy for an elderly person to manage. Seniors may have a more difficult time seeing the inhaler to use it properly, and they may also have trouble reading the label. Using a small inhaler may be a difficult task for seniors with coordination or arthritis-related problems, and many seniors also suffer from illnesses, such as dementia, which also makes it hard to use the inhaler.
Scrima encourages seniors and their families to know the symptoms of asthma, as well as to talk with a physician about what to do when someone close to you has the disease, regardless of their age.
About the Author
Megan Monsess is marketing and admissions specialist at Advocate Sherman West Court. She's worked in health care for 8 years and graduated from Northern Illinois University with a bachelors in Public Health. She's an avid Cubs fan and enjoys riding her bike in her spare time.