CINCINNATI—The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute estimates that of nearly 20 million asthma sufferers in the United States, 15 million are adults.
That, says University of Cincinnati (UC) pulmonologist James Knepler, MD, should be a clear reminder that asthma is not just a childhood disease.
“Asthma affects many adults and can even begin in adulthood,” says Dr. Knepler, assistant professor in the pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine division in UC’s College of Medicine.
“And,” he adds, “asthma is increasing in both incidence and severity.”
A chronic lung disease that results in shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightening, asthma can be caused by exercise, allergens, irritants such as cigarette smoke and air pollution, and viral infections.
The American Lung Association says that in 2003, asthma accounted for an estimated 24.5 million lost work days.
Dr. Knepler says keeping healthy through proper diagnosis and management of this disease is extremely important.
“Lung function declines faster in those with asthma compared with non-asthma sufferers,” says Dr. Knepler. “Asthma isn’t curable, but there are many good treatments and lifestyle changes that make it controllable.
“If you think you may have asthma, it’s important to see a doctor right away.”
In addition to a doctor visit, Dr. Knepler suggests a few other things to keep your lungs healthy.
· Don’t smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke.
· Keep your home free of allergens such as dust and pet dander.
· Seek treatment right away for the flu or other respiratory illnesses.
Dr. Knepler says it may also be helpful to keep track of your asthma in a diary or on a calendar. Information about the frequency or severity of your asthma symptoms can help you better identify asthma triggers.