Posted on May 01, 2018

According to an allergy expert at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Pulmonology Division, over 90 percent of the 8,000 patients referred to the Chest Clinic last year had acute asthma, including many diagnosed with adult-onset asthma.

While asthma is normally diagnosed in childhood, it is not unusual for adults to develop the chronic lung disease. Unlike children who often experience intermittent asthma symptoms in response to allergy triggers or respiratory infections, adults diagnosed with asthma generally have persistent symptoms and require daily medication. “Asthma is most commonly diagnosed in children but it can develop during adulthood. The most common triggers of asthma exacerbations (or asthma attacks) in adults are viral infections and environmental allergens,” notes Dr. Hisham Ahmed Abdulsattar, Chief of HMC’s Pulmonary Division.

He says several factors may make a person more likely to develop adult-onset asthma, with the condition being more common in women and overweight individuals. “Individuals who had asthma as a child may see asthma recur later in life and women are more likely to develop asthma as an adult than men. Obesity also appears to increase one’s risk of developing asthma in adulthood. At the Chest Clinic, we receive patients referred from Hamad General Hospital’s Emergency Department, from primary health clinics, and from private hospitals. Up to 90 percent of these cases involve patients who have asthma,” said Dr. Abdulsattar.

According to Dr. Abdulsattar, the first step in treating asthma is to avoid known triggers. He says adult-onset asthma can be severe and patients may need a more intense treatment regime, underscoring the need to raise awareness of the condition. “Asthma affects the lungs and can cause breathlessness and wheezing, leading to what is known as asthma exacerbations. A severe asthma attack can be life-threatening. Lack of awareness about the symptoms of asthma, which can include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pains, and the misconception that the condition is only diagnosed in childhood, is a major problem around the world. Many individuals do not realize that they can develop asthma as adults, so they might not get medical help when they begin to experience symptoms. The consequence of this can be fatal,” added Dr. Abdulsattar.

Noting that there is no cure for asthma, Dr. Abdulsattar says allergy shots and long-term medications can help manage the condition in both adults and children. He says prevention of triggers should be the first line of defense. “Allergy shots can make an affected individual less sensitive to specific allergens, ease their symptoms and lessen how often they have attacks, especially in the case of children. Steroids and other anti-inflammatory medications can also be helpful, reducing inflammation, swelling, and mucus production in the airways,” he concluded.

In recognition of World Asthma Day on 1 May, HMC has organized a number of activities for patients, visitors, and staff to help raise awareness of the condition and the importance of adhering to a treatment regime. On Tuesday, two large tents will be located at the main entrance of Hamad General Hospital’s Outpatient Department and staff from the Pulmonary Division will provide visitors with information about the disease. Staff will explain the various treatment options, including demonstrating appropriate inhaler techniques and will demonstrate how pulmonary function testing is used in the diagnosis of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other breathing and lung conditions. Additionally, on Tuesday and Wednesday staff at Al Wakra Hospital will host awareness booths located at the hospital’s main entrance, providing patients and visitors with information and answering questions about asthma.

World Asthma Day takes place each year on the first Tuesday in May. According to the World Health Organization, 235 million people worldwide suffer from asthma.