This condition can be diagnosed in people of all ages, including senior citizens. In fact, experts estimate that as many as 10 percent of older people suffer from asthma symptoms. The challenge, though, is that this disease can often be difficult to detect in older folks and treatment can be complicated if the patient also suffers from other health problems.

Could You Have Asthma?

If you are a senior who is suddenly experiencing coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing, especially at night, you should check with your physician to find out if you can be experiencing asthma. The symptoms can mimic other conditions, and/or may be different from what asthmatic children experience, so it is important to be assessed by a medical specialist to find out if you are at risk for this common condition.

Challenges that Exist

Part of the challenge in diagnosing senior asthma is the fact that some older patients may also be suffering from other health problems that can mask the asthma symptoms. If you have reflux, sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, some of the symptoms may overlap. In addition, there doesn’t seem to be as clear a connection between allergies and asthma among seniors, making it harder to identify cause and effect.

How to Diagnose the Condition

If your doctor suspects you could have asthma, he or she will ask some very detailed questions about your symptoms and when, where and how they occur. You may also be asked to undergo some testing to measure your lung function. This is usually a simple procedure that consists of measuring the air going in and out of your lungs.

Different Treatment Path

As an older adult, you could find you will need to take a different treatment approach than you would if you were younger. This can, in part, be because senior citizens often also have a variety of other serious health conditions that could make them less responsive to treatment options or could cause ill effects from certain treatment choices. Therefore, your doctor will need to make some very important choices based on your specific situation and health status. Finally, lung function decreases over time, so if you are older, keep in mind that your goals will be somewhat different from those of a younger person.

Limitations that May Exist

Another important factor to consider with seniors who have asthma is any physical and cognitive limitations that could exist. For instance, if you have severe arthritis that would make it difficult to manipulate a metered-dose inhaler, or if you have memory loss or confusion that prevent you from understanding and following your treatment plan, this needs to be taken into account. Finally, some older people are at greater risk for experiencing medication side effects than their younger counterparts.

Treatment Goals

Once a proper diagnosis has been made and all of the complicating issues and factors are considered, a doctor experienced at working with older asthmatic patients will be able to come up with the most appropriate and effective treatment approach for you, so you can manage your symptoms and keep them under control.