5 Things Caregivers Need to Know About Asthma

Apr 28, 2016

5 Things Caregivers Need to Know About Asthma

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Because asthma symptoms commonly occur at a young age, many are unaware adult asthma is quickly becoming a huge issue for America’s elderly population. According to the Administration on Aging, over 2 million Americans 65 years of age or older manage asthma daily. The elderly population is the fastest growing demographic for asthma posing serious medical risks. Unlike children, seniors experience and manage asthma completely differently.

5 Things Caregivers Should Know About Asthma 

For those caring for a loved one managing adult asthma, being knowledgeable on adult asthma, asthma management, and treatment is pertinent for proper care. To begin, here are 5 pieces of information about adults and asthma.

1. Asthma Can Appear At Any Age

Asthma symptoms can appear at any age, even in those who are 70-80 years of age. However, adults with asthma commonly experience their first symptoms at a young age and a remission of symptoms during the beginning of adulthood. When asthma symptoms appear or reappear in adulthood they can be the same as those displayed at a young age such as wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest. More commonly adult asthma symptoms will manifest as a consistent wet coughing with the production of fluid named sputum.

2. Increased Chance Doctors Will Misdiagnose

Because seniors have the potential to develop a wide range of disease and conditions, there is an increased chance a doctor will unintentionally misdiagnose asthma for another illness. Adults are more likely to contract asthma as a side effect of other respiratory issues such as respiratory infection/virus, sinus disease, allergens, exercise and air pollution.

3. Untreated Asthma Can Result in Complications

If left untreated, adult asthma, even mild symptoms, can result in serious respiratory conditions such as respiratory failure. Unlike children’s asthma, adult asthma does not go into remission. It typically remains a consistently severe due to the age and weakened immune system of older people.

4. Asthma Treatment May Trigger Other Medical Conditions

Oral steroids are the main form of treatment for asthma in younger people. Although adults can utilize oral steroids for a short period of time, the long-term continuation of oral steroids for adult asthma can trigger other medical conditions. Consistent use can cause osteopenia, ulcers, and high blood pressure in seniors. Because adult asthma is commonly triggered by environmental factors such as allergens, lifestyle changes can be a key asthma management option.

5. Finding an Asthma Treatment Plan Can Be Difficult

Finding the proper treatment and management plan for adult asthma can be difficult. When discussing options with a physician, keep in mind other prescription medication being taken for current medical conditions. It is also pertinent to keep in mind asthma treatment is mainly dispensed via an apparatus. For seniors with arthritis or seniors whose dexterity is impaired, it may be more difficult to physically administer treatment to themselves. Be aware assistance with asthma medication is possible.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are modern treatment options for lung disease?

Each form of lung disease demands a different approach in how it is treated. Some are a matter of receiving the right medication, while others may resort to surgical methods or modern cancer-fighting techniques. Based on your diagnosis, physicians and doctors can recommend the best path to take.

In general, if you are suffering from a lung disease it is best to stay away from problematic conditions and areas with an excess of particulate matter in the air. Avoid cigarette smoke and try to breathe oxygen rich air in natural, non-urban environments. Although it might be difficult, taking some time away from pets can also limit the agitation of your respiratory system if you have allergies.

Asthma – Besides the avoidance of environmental stressors like smoke, dust, and other allergens, asthma can be treated with beta2 agonists, anticholinergics, corticosteroids, anti-IgE therapy, and other drugs. Each substance used to treat asthma comes with a unique set of risks and possible side effects, so always consult your doctor while undergoing treatment.

COPD – Again, quitting smoking and avoiding environmental triggers can help manage your symptoms, otherwise medicines are available. Bronchodilators can be used to ease and open the airways, mostly coming in the form of inhalers and other breathable substances. Many of the available medications overlap with treatments for asthma.

Emphysema – There are a variety of treatments available depending on the severity of this condition. Bronchodilators and other inhaled medications can be effective in early stages of the disease, but it may be necessary to undergo surgery to remove small wedges of damaged lung tissue. The last resort is a lung transplant, however, intermittent pulmonary rehabilitation and supplemental oxygen can maintain one’s health throughout the condition.

Bronchitis – Since it is mostly caused by viral infections, antibiotics are ineffective, however, doctors may still recommend them if it is suspected to be a bacterial infection. Inhaler medications may also be prescribed to allow greater airflow and reduce any inflammation.

Pneumonia – The most effective treatment available is the use of antibiotics due to pneumonia’s status as a bacterial infection. Most people will see an improvement within 2 to 3 days of taking the medication, though it's important to be in close consultation with your doctor during the process.

Pulmonary Embolism – Many times this condition will be treated with anticoagulation medication. Working to prevent pulmonary embolisms is key. Genetic predisposition, smoking, prolonged immobilization, and general damage to the blood vessel walls are all factors that increase the risk of having a pulmonary embolism.

Lung Cancer – Treatment typically includes multiple options including, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted drug therapy.

  • Surgery – Includes the removal of a section or the entirety of the lung. Most surgeries take a small margin of health tissue along with the affected areas to limit the spread of cancer.
  • Chemotherapy – Uses intravenous drugs to kill off cancerous cells. This method often follows a surgery in order to eliminate any cells left behind. It may also be the case that chemotherapy is administered before a surgery in hopes of shrinking tumors.
  • Radiation Therapy – Uses high-powered X-rays and photons to destroy cancer cells. This type of therapy can be directed at cancer cells from outside of the body, or placed near the cancer through needles, seeds, or catheters. 
  • Targeted Drug Therapy – These treatments are the newest addition to the fight against cancer, often involving multiple drugs working in conjunction with one another.

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What are some tips for maintaining healthy lungs?

The most obvious way to maintain healthy lung function is to stop smoking. 8 out of 10 COPD deaths are a direct result of smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. This is also the best bet against developing any number of cancers.

For other lung diseases, proper exercise and regular activities that expand the lungs are great ways to limit the buildup of mucus, which can eventually cause infection.

Washing your hands and avoiding crowds during cold and flu season are also important considerations that help to avoid sickness in any form. Additionally, make sure to stay up to date with your influenza vaccinations. There is also a vaccine for pneumonia, but be sure to consult your doctor to see if it is right for you.

Lung diseases can take many forms ranging from mild ailments to life-threatening conditions. Learning about the different ways to prevent and treat these diseases can ensure your golden years remain a breath of fresh air.

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