Adult-onset asthma is asthma that develops in adulthood. In most cases, people develop asthma during childhood, though it can arise at any age.
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), 1 in 12 adults has asthma.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that leads to problems breathing. It causes narrowing and inflammation of the airways and increased mucus production.
This article provides an overview of adult-onset asthma, including its possible causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Doctors are not sure why asthma develops in some adults, but certain factors, such as exposure to chemicals or irritants in the workplace, can cause adult-onset asthma.
According to the ALA, 1 in 6 cases of adult-onset asthma occurs due to occupational exposures. Substances that cause asthma symptoms are called asthmagens.
Another possible cause is allergies. Allergies trigger at least 30% of cases of adult asthma.
Various allergens may trigger asthma symptoms in adults. Common allergens include:
- cigarette smoke
- some chemicals
Similar to asthma that develops in childhood, symptoms of adult-onset asthma may include:
coughing with or without mucus
chest tightness or pressure
s that seem to linger
Adult vs. childhood asthma
Childhood and adult asthma have several similarities, such as symptoms and standard treatment, but there are also differences.
The severity of symptoms can vary in both children and adults.
Asthma that develops in childhood often involves symptoms that come and go. In adult-onset asthma, symptoms are more likely to be persistent and less well controlled.
Adults that develop asthma may have faster lung function decline than children. Adults, especially by middle age, may have stiffening of the chest wall, which can make treating asthma more difficult.
Adults are also at a higher risk of death due to asthma than children. In 2019, 3,524 people died from asthma. Almost all of these people were over 18 years old.
The reasons why adults have a higher rate of asthma-related death are not clear. It may be because symptoms tend to be less well-controlled than children or because of a delay in diagnosis.
It is vital to get an accurate diagnosis of adult-onset asthma in order to develop the most effective treatment plan.
In many cases, adult-onset asthma takes longer to diagnose than asthma in childhood. This is partly due to confusion with other conditions that occur in adults but are rare in children. For example, asthma that develops in adulthood is sometimes confused with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).