Asthma and Elderly
Your life needs not be restricted by asthma no matter how old or young you are. Please discuss with your doctor how to control your asthma so that you can do what you like.
What is asthma?
Asthma is an airway disease, a chronic allergic inflammation of the bronchial tubes. The airway is red and swollen; virus, cigarette smoke, dust mite, pollen and the like may trigger allergic reactions. When this happens, the already swollen airway will tighten and breathing will become difficult.
Common asthma symptoms include wheeze, cough, chest tightness and breathlessness. Worsening of the conditions of these symptoms means an asthma attack. Even in the absence of any symptoms, the bronchi are still inflamed. To keep your asthma under control, you need to work with your doctor and take care of yourself.
Many elderly people suffer from asthma; some have had it since childhood while others develop asthma in adulthood. Causes of the disease are still unidentified.
- Old age makes diagnosis and treatment for asthma more difficult as elderly people may have other diseases like heart disease or emphysema.
- Old people are more likely than young patients to experience side effects of asthma medications. Studies have shown that elderly patients using high dosages of inhaled steroids on a long-term basis had a higher propensity for developing glaucoma.
- Some patients need to take asthma and non-asthma medicines. The combination of these medicines may produce more side effects.
Take note of symptoms in early stage
It takes time for asthma to develop in most cases. You need to take note and record your symptoms. This will help predict the severity and frequency of the attacks. Your doctor may ask you to use a peak flow meter or the Asthma Control TestTM score to monitor and assess your condition. Being aware of any worsening of your condition will prevent fatal attacks.
Stay away from factors that worsen your condition
Cigarette smoke, colds or flu virus, dust mite, pollen, etc may make your condition worse. Please discuss with your doctor any potential triggers and things you need to take note of. Please also check with your doctor whether pneumococcal and influenza vaccines will help prevent your condition from getting worse.
You may think that your asthma is under control or is very mild. But still, you need to visit your doctor on a regular basis (at least once every six months). This will allow the doctor to track your condition and if needed, revise treatment or dosage. You can also get your lung functions examined during these visits and check to see whether you have other related diseases.
Every time you go for a follow-up visit, please bring along all the medications you are taking. Show your doctor how you use the inhaler. This will ensure that you use it properly and are able to breathe in enough medicine. If the inhaler is not preferred, you may use an inhalation accessory device (a holding chamber) or oral medicine such as leukotriene receptor antagonist. Please consult with your doctor.
I must control my asthma.
Here are some key points:
- Please be honest with your doctor and tell him/her what asthma has stopped you from doing. Share your worries about the disease, the medication and your health.
- If you use inhaler medicine, please make sure you use it properly. Ask your doctor or nurse to confirm that you use it correctly.
- Inform your doctor of all the medication you are taking, including drugs for asthma or other diseases. This is to ensure that the combination of these medicines will not lead to other side effects. If you use eye-drops, aspirin or other non-prescription medication, please remember to tell your doctor.
- Inform your doctor of symptoms which may not be related to asthma. Be honest with him/her and avoid guessing.
- If you have a bad memory or any hearing or comprehension problems, please let your doctor know and ask for help from your families.