9. January 2019
Asthma Can Also Begin After 60

Argentinean researchers have discovered that as many as ten in 100 people over 60 may develop asthma. People with allergies are especially at risk.

Until now, the assumption has been that asthma begins in childhood or adolescence. However, recent studies increasingly reveal chronic inflammatory changes to the airways (asthma) that only appear at a more advanced age. Those affected suffer from throat irritation, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

If the body is already trying to cope with other diseases, the symptoms intensify, particularly in older people. This was the conclusion of Anahí Yánez and her team at the Research Center for Allergies and Respiratory Diseases in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

How did the team conduct the study?

The study evaluated data from 152 people with asthma, 73% of whom were female. The average age of the subjects was 66 years.

The research team investigated which additional chronic diseases (co-morbidities) were present and how allergies influence asthma symptoms. The analysis is based on data from five clinics in Argentina.

What were the findings of the study?

Most of the subjects (74.3%) rated their asthma symptoms as moderate.
Only 7.2% suffered severe symptoms.
Passive smoking exacerbated the symptoms in 75% of the cases, air pollution in 39% and physical exertion in 21% of the cases.

In one in ten subjects, asthma appeared only after age 60.

Two thirds of the subjects also suffered from chronic diseases, most commonly allergies (65%) followed by high blood pressure (45%), gastroesophageal reflux (16%) and diabetes (12%).

The allergies mostly affected the nasal cavity (68%) as year-round, seasonal or chronic inflammatory rhinitis.

How can the findings help?

Not only young people develop asthma – the symptoms can also occur in older people. Asthma should therefore also be considered as a potential cause of throat irritation, shortness of breath and chest tightness in older patients.

The previous assumption that late-onset asthma does not have an allergic component was explicitly refuted by the study.
Like other comorbidities, this needs to be taken into account during treatment. Only treatment that is carefully adapted to the causes can reduce symptoms over the long term and improve quality of life.

Original Study

Yánez A et al. Clinical characteristics and comorbidities of elderly asthmatics who attend allergy clinics. Asthma Res Pract. 2018 Apr 23;4:5.