Over 90% of the 8,000 patients referred to Hamad Medical Corporation's (HMC) Chest Clinic last year had acute asthma, including many diagnosed with adult-onset asthma.
World Asthma Day takes place each year on the first Tuesday in May. According to the World Health Organisation, 235mn people worldwide suffer from 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,” noted 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% 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 realise that they can develop asthma as adults, so they might not get medical help when they begin to experience symptoms.,” added Dr Abdulsattar.
In recognition of World Asthma Day, HMC has organised a number of activities for patients, visitors, and staff to help raise awareness of the condition and the importance of adhering to treatment.