Tuesdays are Your Turn – Control and Adult-Onset Asthma

Don’t you just love it when you innovate something that performs its function in exactly the way you intended?

It doesn’t always happen. I’ve helped the girls with too many school projects to mention that turned out just a wee bit different from the vision in my head, and as far as anything crafty goes – forget about it. The mental picture and my end result will never come close to matching.

But today’s reader response has me feeling pretty clever about this whole Tuesday feature I started a year ago. I maintain Tuesdays are Your Turn partly because I like to read your words instead of mine once a week but mostly because I get too many questions far beyond the scope of my experience. Tuesdays fill the gap.

Case in point, from my email and partially edited for clarity and anonymity:

I grew up in Colorado and moved to Kansas around 19 years ago. While living in Colorado I had spring allergies, but since living in Kansas I have had SEVERE allergies and have been diagnosed with asthma and it is increasingly getting worse. In fact, I am amazed many times at the triggers.

Since I am an older diagnosed asthmatic I feel like all I do is play catch-up in treating my symptoms. Is this kind of my new “lot” in life or can I get things under control? If so, I would love more suggestions.

Adult-onset folks, what’s your take? How much control do you have, and how did you get there?

18 responses to “Tuesdays are Your Turn – Control and Adult-Onset Asthma”

  1. Elisheva says:

    Interesting topic. Quite different from the regular type stuff you post. I’m not adult onset, but I was diagnosed late enough in childhood to be able to remember life without asthma, which as much as I take it as normal and am used to it, I’ll never be like my brother who was born with it and knows nothing else. And in turn, at least seems to get less frustrated by it than I do, since he has nothing to compare to.

    I figure adult onset people would just be like everybody else. Everyone goes thru a rocky learning and adjustment period of what can be a few years, and for kids who are too young to know otherwise, their parents are the ones who have to do the learning and adjustment. Having had asthma what is now most of my life, I am still always making adjustments, learning new things and reaching for better and better control. It’s a process that never ends. But I’m always making improvements and the meds available are always getting better. Asthma doesn’t stop me from doing anything I want to do and I lead a pretty normal life. So that’s pretty awesome. I hope the author of this post is able to be just as successful!

  2. Sara C. says:

    I don’t have adult onset asthma, nor am I under fabulous control…but that’s my fault entirely.

    If I were just being diagnosed now, and my primary care physician was having trouble getting my asthma under control, I would insist on being seen by a pulmonologist. I would also get tested for reflux. Many asthmatics have lung issues due to undiagnosed silent reflux. My mother has pulmonary fibrosis, that was mistreated simply as asthma for many, many years, due to undiagnosed reflux. Once her reflux was treated, the damage to her lungs was decreased, and hopefully, the progression of the fibrosis will be slowed.

    Finally, something I tell everyone, whether an adult patient, or a parent of a kiddo (with any chronic medical issue) If you don’t believe your doctor is doing enough, or isn’t listening to you, or isn’t helping you….etc….FIRE THEM. You are a consumer…your doctor isn’t God, nor are you married to them. If they are not giving you what you need, then find someone that will. I’m not talking about doctor shopping to find a doctor that will prescribe you medication for every sniffle…but if you believe that you don’t get the care you deserve, in terms of disease control, or time in the office, or whatever else…then find a doctor that will. So many people spend too much time with a doctor that doesn’t help them…merely because they don’t realize, or are scared to find a doctor that WILL help them.

    There are so many medications out there…if one doesn’t work, then try another…more than one can be used…there are options for control.

  3. Kat says:

    I guess I count as adult onset, or at least late adolescence (19 years old). The allergies are nothing new for me so that control wise is only getting better cause they finally got really really bad. This landed me in the allergist’s office and for allergy shots. Which hopefully will help. I think the biggest thing for me about getting in control(ish) was just taking it slow and not trying to jump right back into everything too quickly. The road to control has been rough. I’m still not completely there I don’t think but I”m getting closer. I think like anybody a lot of it was just trial and error and some dumb luck. I’d say don’t be afraid to take some risks and remember you aren’t made of china while you might not bounce back as quickly as you did when you were little you will get back. Also you have the advantage of being older and knowing what ‘normal’ feels like and able to articulate better than a child what is going on in your body.

  4. kerri says:

    I think unless you are under FABULOUS control, “more” control is something that you’ll always search after. Due to my lungs just being weird, I’m still not a perfectly, or even decently controlled asthmatic [diagnosed at 17]. At the same time, I also say NEVER stop reaching for a greater level of control! I have friends who use their inhalers twice a year. That is the kind of control I want. Granted, my asthma is nowhere near as mild as theirs is, but a person can dream right?

    At the same time, don’t overwhelm yourself! If you and your doctor(s) are comfortable with your level of control, you’re staying outta the ER and off prednisone and using your inhaler here and there, that is okay. It also depends what medications you are currently on, and what could be added to give you more control. There are lots of options out there, lots of combinations of drugs, and there will hopefully be something to get your asthma in control.

    If, though, you feel you are struggling too much, your doctor isn’t getting you and your asthma, demand referral to a pulmonologist or an allergist/immunologist to discuss your asthma [and allergies], and if you haven’t already, have your IgE levels checked–if they’re outta range, there are several different options in the allergy field including Xolair [for moderate/severe allergic asthma] and other allergy desensitization shots. Allergists and pulmonologists are often much better sources of medication changes/adjustments than primary care doctors, so don’t hesitate to ask for a referral!

    You should also have baseline pulmonary function tests (PFTs / spirometry) done if you haven’t already to monitor your lung function and how you’re responding to treatment. Any pulmonologist [and probably allergist] can run a basic spiro on you, and some primary docs have them in clinic [though I’ve never seen this up north in Canada!]

    Most of all, stay positive and good luck!

  5. Amy says:

    I like the suggestions for specialists, baseline PFTs, and a good fit with doctors. As Sara mentioned, it’s important to remember you’re the customer in the doctor/patient relationship, and if you ever feel you aren’t getting the level of care you need, then move on. I struggled with this issue when my daughter was younger–I had such faith the ped. could “fix” her b/c of that medical degree that it took me awhile to notice that this particular doctor & I just weren’t a good fit. Our personalities clashed too much, and it was affecting the productivity of each visit.

  6. lpnmon says:

    How about a related question: how do you get your adult-onset (or at least, adult-diagnosed) spouse to achieve and maintain control? He’s so used to being short of breath, coughing, and wheezing that he doesn’t see that it isn’t normal. He does acknowledge feeling better on the rare occasions that he takes his flovent as he should, but getting him there is hard. Ideas? Suggestions?

    It seems to me that he should be striving for the same thing as the kiddos: high peak flows, no rescue inhaler use (or need) and no wheezing. I could be wrong though…..

  7. Amy says:

    I’ve got a relative whose son deals with a whole host of developmental and health issues, including asthma, and while she’s super-vigilant about his needs, she ignores her own. She takes forever to recover from minor colds, suffers from “yearly bronchitis” every winter, and coughs excessively when she’s tired. But she won’t even go see the doctor, much less get evaluated for asthma herself. I think, in her case, her son needs so much that she doesn’t view her own health as anything major, you know?

    Anyway, I’ll post your question next Tuesday, if you like–more people will see it that way.

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