Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Is Adult Onset Asthma Possible?

Tuesday, 29 June 2010 09:36 AM

Question: I'm 55 and I've been in good health all my life. The other day I was working in the yard and suddenly couldn't breathe. The hospital people gave me something to inhale that cleared it up, but now they say I have asthma. How can you suddenly develop asthma when you're 55 years old?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

I agree with you. It is very unusual to develop asthma at age 55, although chronic obstructive lung disease (emphysema, chronic bronchitis, etc.) associated with smoking often begins to demonstrate symptoms at your age. Also, a number of occupational lung conditions (asbestosis, pneumoconiosis, etc.) commonly develop at your age.

Many infections cause breathing problems, including pneumonia, legionella, and tuberculosis. Fortunately, there are very clear guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of asthma. Many heart and lung conditions can masquerade as asthma, so you are very wise to be inquisitive about your diagnosis.

All that wheezes is not asthma! With no prior symptoms, I share your skepticism. Ask for a referral to a lung specialist for a second opinion, and consider seeing a cardiologist for a stress test.

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