Believe it or not, elderly asthma can be overlooked. It is often confused with chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD), a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lungs.
Both asthma and COPD are common among the elderly. Over a lifetime, the lungs become fragile and are more susceptible to substances such as pollen, dust, and smoking.
If you suspect that an older person has asthma then you should closely monitor the symptoms. If this person has this treatable illness, he or she does not have to suffer in silence.
The Symptoms Are Similar But The Prognosis Are Different
The symptoms of asthma and COPD are similar in that decreased lung function, obstructed airflow, and shortness of breath occurs with both. And of course there is coughing and wheezing. This is probably why these two conditions get confused.
But then they begin to differ …. both diseases have different causes, physiology, and prognosis. While asthma is usually a natural overreaction to certain substances such as pollen, COPD is often caused by a lifetime of smoking. COPD causes irritation to the lungs to the point where it is permanently inflamed. Asthma is reversible with medication while COPD sadly is not.
A Proper Diagnosis Is Difficult But Necessary
During a routine doctor visit, it is very difficult to differentiate between elderly asthma and COPD. Asthma is seen as an illness of the young and frequently overlooked during a physical examination. There might be other diseases such as congestive heart failure or pneumonia that presents similar symptoms and delay a diagnosis of asthma.
An Asthma Specialist Can Tell The Difference
Another problem for the older generation is that the symptoms of elderly asthma are commonly underreported. Shortness of breath and wheezing are sometimes confused in the elderly or they are seen as a natural part of the aging process. For that reason many elderly patients fail to report them to their doctors.
But a qualified medical professional can tell the difference. With the right tests, you can know if your parent or grandparent is suffering with elderly asthma.
Asthma And COPD Are Common Among The Elderly
A careful examination of medical history and physical examination will show a difference between these two diseases. A history of smoking will lean more towards COPD. Although the two have similar symptoms, asthma will respond better to medications than does COPD. Basically a treatment of asthma bronchodilators will reverse the symptoms in asthma but this does not happen in COPD.
The Right Treatment Plan Can Result In Better Quality Of Life
Although asthma elderly is underreported, it continues to affect 4-6% of the American population. Both diseases have a different prognosis and treatment options. Because it is reversible with right medication, asthma has a better prognosis than COPD. With the right asthma action plan, the symptoms can be controlled. But an elderly person with asthma will need a proper diagnose to give the best treatment plan.
If you know an older person with difficulty breathing, don’t assume that it is COPD or emphysema. It could be elderly asthma. He or she should seek an asthma doctor so that the right treatment can be given.
Most people find fewer problems with breathing problems when they find an asthma management plan that really works. Read The SAFE Asthma Treatment Guide and discover the four steps to controlling asthma. With a little help from your doctor and the right plan of action, you can control your wheezing and coughing so that you can breathe easier.