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Understanding Asthma as an Older Adult

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Long-term Lung Condition 

Asthma is a long-term (chronic) lung condition. It involves the airways (bronchial tubes). It happens when a trigger causes your airways to swell and become narrow. The muscles around your airways start to tighten. When your airways start to narrow, air can't move in and out of your lungs very well. Mucus also builds up along the airways. This makes it even harder to move air in and out of your lungs.

Symptoms of asthma include:
  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing faster than normal
  • Getting out of breath easily
  • Feeling tired or weak

You can get asthma as an older adult even if you’ve never had it before. It can be hard to tell asthma from other conditions that are more common in older adults. For instance, wheezing can occur in both asthma and heart failure. A long-term cough can occur in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). One of the most important parts of treatment is staying away from the things that cause your asthma symptoms. Examples of these are:

  • Allergens such as pollen, dust mites, dander, or mold. Nonallergic triggers include cold air, weather changes, pollution, and smoke.
  • Irritants such as cigarette smoke from smoking or secondhand smoke, and air pollution. Smokers should quit.
  • Stress, exercise, and upper respiratory infections (viruses or bacteria). These can make asthma symptoms worse.

Patients at Lakeland Pulmonology have access to a new tool for evaluating asthma—a common lung disease affecting 235 million people worldwide. The majority of patients with asthma have airway inflammation and higher levels of nitric oxide (NO) in their exhaled breath. The NIOX® FeNO test is a safe, non-invasive device that measures patients’ NO levels at the point-of-care and provides results within one minute. This results in a more accurate diagnosis and individualized treatment plan. For more information, call (269) 982-5864 or visit

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