Approximately 25 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with asthma as of 2009, according to the CDC. It is often thought of as a childhood condition, but asthma affects more adults than children. In some cases, asthma may not be diagnosed until adulthood.
Asthma is a chronic disease marked by wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. These symptoms are caused by chronic inflammation of the airways, increased mucus, and thickening and narrowing of the bronchial tubes.
Several possible causes
What causes adult asthma? No one knows for sure. Higher levels of air pollution, a lack of exercise, and spending more time indoors may be to blame. Experts say that other factors also can increase your risk:
Viral infections, including upper-respiratory infections, such as colds
Family history of asthma
Exposure to tobacco smoke or other irritants
Aspirin and over-the-counter (OTC), nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, also can trigger asthma attacks in some people. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta-blockers—both given to treat heart disease and high blood pressure—may make asthma worse.
You may have asthma now and not even know it. Coughing or wheezing when you're vacuuming, gardening, or exposed to dogs or cats could be a sign of the condition. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath and tightness in your chest. Even a dry, hacking cough that lingers after what seems to be a mild cold could mean you have asthma. See your health care provider if you notice changes in how you breathe. He or she can determine if you have asthma or another condition with similar symptoms, such as chronic bronchitis.
If you do have asthma, you'll probably start treatment for it right away with medication. Your health care provider will probably prescribe a short-acting bronchodilator if you have mild and intermittent symptoms. For moderate or persistent symptoms, your health care provider may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug. This may be combined with a long-acting bronchodilator or given as two separate inhalers. An oral anti-inflammatory drug may also be added for moderate or persistent symptoms.
Try these tips to help manage your condition and prevent asthma attacks:
Make a list of the OTC and prescription medications you already take. Show it to all your health care providers and update it at every visit.
Get your treatment plan in writing from your health care provider. It should list your asthma medications and doses and when to take them.
Learn to use a peak flow meter. It may detect a worsening of your asthma before you develop symptoms. It can help you anticipate an asthma attack and adjust your medications accordingly.
Develop and review an asthma care plan regularly with your doctor. An asthma care plan contains instructions on self-treatment depending on what your peak flows are showing.
Avoid asthma triggers, such as smoke, mold, and pollen. Respiratory infections also can worsen asthma. Talk with your health care provider about ways to prevent them.
Have the following paperwork on hand in case of an asthma attack: an updated list of your medications and dosages, your health insurance ID card, the name and address of the closest hospital, and the names and phone numbers of your health care providers.
Asthma QuizChildren are more likely to have asthma than are ...Asthma Quiz ►
Prednisone Oral solution
Prednisone Oral tablet
Methylprednisolone Sodium Succinate Solution for injection
Methylprednisolone Oral tablet
Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate Solution for injection
Dexamethasone Oral tablet
Formoterol Fumarate Nebulizer solution
Methylprednisolone Acetate Suspension for injection
Fluticasone Furoate Nasal spray
Hydrocortisone Topical spray
Fluticasone, Salmeterol Inhaler
Epinephrine Hydrochloride Nasal spray
Aminophylline Oral tablet
Dexamethasone Oral solution
Fluticasone Propionate Topical lotion
Hydrocortisone Rectal enema, suspension
Hydrocortisone Rectal cream
Montelukast Sodium Chewable tablet
Epinephrine Solution for injection
Levalbuterol Tartrate Pressurized inhalation, suspension
Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate Eye ointment
Triamcinolone Acetonide Nasal spray
Dyphylline Oral tablet
Omalizumab (Hamster) Solution for injection
Montelukast Sodium Oral granules
Terbutaline Sulfate Solution for injection
Terbutaline Sulfate Oral tablet
Salmeterol Xinafoate Inhalation powder
Salmeterol, Xinafoate Inhaler
Metaproterenol Sulfate Nebulizer solution
Metaproterenol Sulfate Inhaler
Metaproterenol Sulfate Oral tablet
Levalbuterol Hydrochloride Nebulizer solution
Formoterol Fumarate Inhalation powder, capsule
Fluticasone, Salmeterol Inhalation powder
Epinephrine Hydrochloride Solution for injection
Epinephrine Hydrochloride Inhalation vapour, solution
Ephedrine Sulfate Solution for injection
Albuterol Sulfate Nebulizer solution
Albuterol Sulfate Oral syrup
Zafirlukast Oral tablet
Montelukast Sodium Oral tablet
Nedocromil Sodium Eye drops, solution
Nedocromil Sodium Inhaler
Cromolyn Sodium Nasal spray, solution
Cromolyn Sodium Eye drops, solution
Cromolyn Sodium Nebulizer solution
Cromolyn Sodium Inhaler
Cromolyn Sodium Oral solution
Prednisolone Sodium Phosphate Oral solution
Prednisolone Oral tablet
Flunisolide Nasal spray
Cortisone Acetate Oral tablet
Budesonide Nebulizer suspension
Budesonide Inhalation powder
Budesonide Oral capsule, gastro-resistant pellets
Beclomethasone Dipropionate Nasal spray
Triamcinolone Acetonide Inhaler
Triamcinolone Acetonide Dental paste
Triamcinolone Oral tablet
Hydrocortisone Acetate Rectal suppository
Hydrocortisone Acetate Rectal foam
Hydrocortisone Sodium Succinate Solution for injection
Hydrocortisone Oral tablet
Fluticasone Propionate Nasal spray
Fluticasone Propionate Inhalation powder
Fluticasone Propionate Inhaler
Betamethasone Valerate Topical foam
Betamethasone Acetate, Betamethasone Sodium Phosphate Suspension for injection
Betamethasone Oral syrup