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Asthma Center

Possible Complications of Asthma

by
author image Ann Wu, M.D., M.P.H.
Ann Wu, M.D., M.P.H., is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Boston, an asthma researcher and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. She is also an investigator with the Pharmacogenetics of Asthma Treatment project, which is part of the Pharmacogenomics Research Network, and the lead investigator of the Population-Based Effectiveness in Asthma and Lung Diseases network. She blogs at asth.ma from her point of view as an asthma doctor, researcher and mom. She tweets from @Asthma3Ways.
Possible Complications of Asthma
Photo Credit IStock

Overview

Although asthma is a serious disease that has no cure, with attentive and proper care, asthma symptoms and attacks can be prevented so that individuals can live a normal, active life.

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How Can Asthma Affect My Quality of Life?

If your asthma is not controlled, you may continue to experience asthma symptoms. Many individuals with asthma experience much of their symptoms during the night. Thus, poorly controlled asthma could cause sleep disturbance and sleep deprivation. Over time, lack of sleep can cause problems with the ability to function during the day at work or at school. Some individuals with asthma believe they cannot exercise, and some people do not exercise because their asthma symptoms get in the way. In reality, exercise helps to improve asthma. It is important to talk with your health care provider to discuss strategies for how to manage your asthma symptoms in order for you to exercise. Uncontrolled asthma can also lead to psychological problems like stress, anxiety and depression.

Can Asthma Cause Permanent Damage?

It is rare, but for some individuals asthma may cause ongoing chronic inflammation of the airways that can lead to permanent structural changes. These structural changes, known as airway remodeling, include all alterations in structural cells and tissues in an asthmatic airway. These changes may result in permanent loss of lung function and a chronic cough.

What Other Complications Occur From Asthma?

Sometimes asthma can lead to a number of serious lung complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs), pneumothorax (a collapse of part or all of the lung), respiratory failure (oxygen levels in the blood become too low and/or carbon dioxide levels become too high) or status asthmaticus (severe and continual asthma attacks that do not respond to initial treatment).

Could I End Up in the Hospital From Asthma?

Asthma accounts for almost 2 million emergency-room visits each year and is the third highest cause of hospitalization in children. Fortunately, almost everyone recovers from asthma attacks with emergency treatment.

Seek emergency care immediately if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:

• extreme difficulty breathing

• severe chest pain

• difficulty walking or talking

• bluish tint to the skin

Do People Die From Asthma?

Yes. Worldwide, roughly one in 250 deaths occur annually due to asthma. In the U.S. there are more than 4,000 deaths due to asthma each year. Most of these deaths could have been prevented with proper treatment.

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