According to an allergy expert from the Pulmonology Division of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), over 90% of the 8,000 patients referred to its 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, according to Dr Hisham Ahmed Abdulsattar, Chief of the HMC Pulmonary Division. He said that several factors can make a person more likely to develop adult-onset asthma, with the condition being more common in women and individuals who are overweight.
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.’
According to Dr Abdulsattar, the first step in treating asthma is to avoid known triggers. He said that 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 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. The consequence can be fatal.’
Noting that there is no cure for asthma, Dr Abdulsattar said that allergy shots and long-term medications can help manage the condition in both adults and children. He said that prevention of triggers should be the first line of defence.
Allergy shots can make an affected individual less sensitive to specific allergens, ease their symptoms and lessen how often they have attacks. Steroids and other anti-inflammatory medications can also be helpful, reducing inflammation, swelling, and mucus production in the airways.’
World Asthma Day is celebrated each year every first Tuesday of May. According to the World Health Organisation, 235 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. HMC has organised a number of activities for patients, visitors, and staff to help raise awareness on the condition and the importance of adhering to a treatment regime. Al Wakra Hospital also set up awareness booths at their main entrance to provide patients and visitors with more information about asthma.