Elderly Asthma
How To Get Relief

Elderly asthma can be helped. If you know an older person who has difficulty breathing, do not assume that he or she cannot have asthma.

Elderly asthma can be helped. If you know an older person who has difficulty breathing, do not assume that he or she cannot have asthma. 

Even though asthma is known as a childhood illness, more of the elderly population are being diagnosed with it.

It is reported that seventeen percent of Americans suffer from asthma. And last year there was a sharp rise in elderly who suffered from this ailment. In the United States, more than one million people over the age of 65 were discovered to have asthma.

Symptoms To Watch For In Elderly Asthma 

Asthma is a respiratory disease that affects breathing. Bronchoconstriction and inflammations of the lungs most frequently results in 

  • shortness of breath, 
  • coughing 
  • wheezing. 

This is how asthma presents itself no matter what the age of the patient is.

Many reports say that this is a disease for only children and they would be incorrect. It is very evident in elderly people. The problem is that some of the symptoms are similiar to other conditions.

If you know someone who presents with these types of symptoms, a qualified medical professional should evaluate this person for this illness.  

How Many Elderly Are Misdiagnosed?

Many elderly have multiple medical conditions that can affect how asthma treatment is given. Several cardiac or respiratory diseases can imitate asthma and make it difficult to diagnose asthma. Any older person with asthma needs a systematic approach that takes all of their ailments into account. During diagnosis, other possible diseases have to be ruled out:

  • Shortness Of Breath – In the elderly, it is believed to be a part of ageing. In reality, it is the body trying to get the air which it needs. This is not a normal condition at any age and the following conditions should be ruled out: COPD, pulmonary embolism, and congestive heart failure. 
  • Cough - A cough is the body's way of trying to get rid of the additional mucus or foreign body. Elderly people with a chronic cough should also be evaluated for pneumonia, upper airway cough syndrome, and GERD. 
  • Wheezing - It is the most common symptom of asthma. It is caused by the air passing through to the lungs via narrowed airways. It can be also caused by other conditions such as COPD, acute bronchitis, bronchiectasis, pulmonary aspiration, pulmonary embolism, and bronchial tumors. 
  • Chest Tightness – This usually means that the lungs are in trouble and that the smaller sacs of the lungs (alveoli) are in distress. Although this symptom can also occur from angina, emphysema, or pneumonia, it requires immediate medical attention.

A major 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. 

Elderly Asthma Affects Quality Of Life

Treating elderly asthma can be a problematic as practitioners have to approach it differently than for the adult or children. 

A study of a group of people aged seventy-three on average, revealed that only fifty three percent of the patients were correctly diagnosed as being asthmatic. Just short of twenty percent were incorrectly diagnosed as have chronic obstructive airways disease. It was found that these people suffered greater disability as they got older. Due to other chronic condition, many elderly asthmatics tend to underreport their symptoms or attribute it to ageing.

Since asthma is one of the most under-diagnosed diseases in the United States, there is little research and treatment options for this population.

Asthma is not a disease just for the very young. Many people perceive that asthma is strictly a childhood illness and this is false. Although asthma has classic symptoms such as wheezing that is seen in many elderly people, it is frequently underreported.

Many elderly people may report the symptoms but sometiimes an asthma diagnosis is not made. Since this illness is better known as a childhood disease, many of the elderly population are not diagnosed. 

Often these people deny any symptoms or believe that these symptoms are part of getting old. Apart from not reporting the existence of asthma, many elderly people suffer from depression and cognitive impairment and deny other conditions as well. This usually results in more trips to the emergency room and a higher rate of hospitalization rate.

Elderly Asthma: Is It COPD or Asthma?

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 it, he or she does not have to suffer in silence.

The symptoms of asthma and COPD are similar in that they both have decreased airflow and shortness of breath. And of course there is coughing and wheezing. This is probably why these two conditions get confused. 

But that is where 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 and dust, 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.

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.

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. 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. 

Treatments For Elderly Asthma:
Careful Medical Treatment Is Vital To A Normal Life

Elderly asthma is a disorder that affects how many older people live on a daily basis. It is a chronic respiratory disorder that affects breathing and quality of life. The classic symptoms of asthma are wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. But for the elderly, these are signs of other illnesses that they might have and will not exclusively define asthma. Therefore, it may be missed during a medical examination.

The ultimate goal is for the sufferer to control symptoms and have a normal life. The basic treatment strategies for this mature population are ongoing education, daily monitoring, and medication to treat symptoms. 

Ultimately, an asthma management plan will mean decreased emergency room visits and hospitalizations, improved lung function, and maintenance of daily life activities.

Proper treatment for asthma requires prevention and treatment of symptoms and this person can help to alleviate the pain and confusion of elderly asthma.

Since many people from the older population suffer from multiple illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, etc., they are sometimes limited on how to approach treatment for asthma.

The Right Treatment Plan Can Improve 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.

A thorough medical history and physical assessment should be performed on anyone with asthma symptoms. For an elderly person, predisposing factors will dictate the treatment options. For example, certain individuals will not be able to use hand-held dose inhaler because of medical conditions such as arthritis. 

After the exam, a spirometer can be used to confirm the presence of obstructive disease of the airways. It can also be utilized to follow the severity of the symptoms. This is sometime difficult since some elderly patients have decrease muscle tone and has trouble with the blowing into a peak flow meter.

The best option for an elderly person is to have a friend or family who can assist in that person’s care. Since asthma is a chronic respiratory illness that requires close monitoring, it is important to have someone who can supervise the care.

Ongoing Education Plays A Key Part Of Treatment

Asthma elderly presents with a unique situation. Although the symptoms can be reduced by an early diagnosis, many medical treatments are limited in the elderly population. Proper management includes a comprehensive evaluation of all disease processes that a person may have. The treatment should also include a plan of care that prevents and treats ongoing symptoms.

Unlike other age group, the elderly frequently has multiple medical conditions and this must be taken into consideration. Certain medications are incompatible with asthma and can bring about attacks. Medical treatment should be based upon a person’s asthma and medical history.

Due to the fact this group tend to have a long medical history, they have to be taught about careful administration of medications, possible side effects, and possible interactions with other drugs.

Family members need to be educated also. Depending on the physical or mental condition of an elderly person, he or she may need assistance in completing treatment.

Be Cautious With Medications 

Asthma medication forms a unique risk for older people. When it comes to the elderly, medication has to be prescribed with care. It is not absorbed into the body like younger people. Organs such as the heart are more vulnerable to side effects and the liver takes longer to filter out medication. This presents a higher risk for tachycardia, a fast heart rate, or palpitations which are irregular heartbeats.

  • Short-Acting Medication Can Stop Symptoms Immediately 

Bronchodilators, which are usually given for a short period of time, reverse the tightness of the lung airways by relaxing the muscles.  Theophylline should be used carefully with the elderly population. Although it may be needed for quick relief of symptoms, older patient are more vulnerable to theophylline’s side effects. These include nausea, diarrhea, increase in heart rate, arrhythmias, and liver disease.

  • Long-Acting Medication Can Prevent Future Attacks

Anti-inflammatory medications, which are prescribed for a longer period, stop future attacks by decreasing the overall redness and swelling of the lungs. The metabolic rate of an elderly person usually does not tolerate this medication well and it may result in tremors, high heart rate, and increased blood pressure.

  • Inhaled Steriods Are Safe To Reduce Inflammation 

When diagnostic tests show that asthma is a severe problem in an elderly person, a different form of medication has to be used. This type of steroid reduces the hypersensitivity of the lungs and consequently the overreaction to triggers. 

But corticosteroids must be used with caution. They tend to negatively affect the whole bodily systems and have increased risks for side effects. They include hypertension (high blood pressure), hypokalemia (low potassium levels in the blood), hypernatremia (high sodium levels in the blood), and osteoporosis.

Unfortunately the elderly population may have some issues with asthma treatments. 

Even with education, an elderly person with asthma may have difficulty with usage of the medication. There are several issues such as miscommunication, drug incapability, and non-compliance that can stop an elderly person from receiving proper treatment. 

Treatment Can Be Difficult For The Older Generation

Although the elderly population need asthma medication to treat symptoms, it can be dangerous for their general health. When it comes to medication, it should be done carefully . They have a unique situation that can put their lives in danger. 

The elderly population does not handle drug treatment like a young person can. Their metabolism is very different and can affect medical treatment. 

Elderly asthma limits the choice, dosage, and frequency of medications. A small change in the metabolic rate of a person can cause an adverse reaction to medication. Therefore potential effects should be monitored routinely through physical examinations and laboratory tests.

Medication in the elderly should not be overused as they may worsen a medical condition. Several medications are known to trigger an attack. For example, beta-blocking agents for hypertension have been associated with causing or worsening asthma symptoms.

The elderly population must be carefully monitored for side effects. The risk of an adverse reaction from asthma treatment increases as the years go by. Side effects should be mentioned at each doctor visit. These may include a new cough, decreased exercise tolerance, a high heart rate, or shortness of breath. Since drug interactions are always a potential issue, all medications should also be evaluated at every examination.

Like many asthmatics, an elderly person should be assessed for proper administration of medication. Asthma medication is not effective if it is not taken properly. 

Asthma Products Than Help In Times Of Need

Managing elderly asthma with appropriate treatment will ensure that many older people will have a better quality of life. With proper education, the right medications, and preventative measures, older members with asthma can live safely with this breathing disorder. 

Proper asthma management is centered around avoiding triggers, having an asthma action plan, and seeking help, when necessary. This should include a peak flow to measure lung capacity, a nebulizer system to immediately treat symptoms, and a pulse oximeter to measure oxygen levels.

  • An Air Cleaner That Removes Asthma Triggers

A highly efficient air cleaner was created specifically for allergy and asthma sufferers. Using High Efficiency Gas Absorption (HEGA) and medical HEPA filtration, this unit removes particulates and gaseous contaminants from the air quickly, before they can trigger an allergy attack.

  • Allergy Bedding That Is Comfortable, Washable And Free From Chemicals

Designed for people suffering from allergies, asthma, eczema and other dust related allergies. These comfortable allergy pillows are covered with Pristine allergy fabric, a soft, woven, dust mite-proof fabric . They are filled with polyester fabric that is non-allergenic, odorless, resilient and lightweight. Machine washable. 

  •  A Small Nebulizer That Is Light And Portable

It turns asthma medication into a fine mist so that it can go directly to the lungs. This nebulizer is perfect for anyone with elderly asthma.The small, compact size of the PARI Nebulizer makes it portable and convenient. Coupled with quick treatment times, it provides anyone with elderly asthma with portability, speed, and relief in as little as eight minutes. 

  • A Holding Chamber 

It delivers the smaller medication particles so that it reaches deep into the airways of the lungs. Anyone with elderly asthma should have a holding chamber. Why? Because it helps any older person get more medicine, and it decreases the residue in the mouth.

  • A Peak Flow 

A ipeak flow is a small device that shows how well your lungs are working. Used on a daily basis, a peak flow meter can tell when your asthma symptoms are getting worse. The Microlife is a great tool for managing elderly asthma at home. 

Overall, the goal of medical treatment is to control asthmatic symptoms as well as stop any possible future episodes. With close medical supervision, elderly asthma can be safely managed.


More Information
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Most people find fewer problems with asthma when they find a treatment plan that works.... Read The SAFE Asthma Treatment Guide and discover the four steps to controlling asthma The right therapy can treat your symptoms so that you can breathe better. 

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