To Your Good Health

Asthma can strike at any age

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Isn't it odd to come down with asthma at age 66? They tell me I have it. I had a cough that started this past winter, and it wouldn't go away. It comes in spurts and is always worse at night. My family doctor sent me to a lung doctor, who did all sorts of tests on me; his verdict was asthma. No one believes me when I say I have asthma. They don't say so, but I know they're thinking I'm too old. -- P.G.

ANSWER: You can get asthma at any age. About 12 percent of adults suffer from it, and 15 percent of children have it. The number of adult asthmatic men equals the number of adult asthmatic women. In childhood, more boys than girls have it.

What happens in an asthma attack is a sudden narrowing of airways. Asthmatic airways are super-sensitive and asthmatics react to things that the rest of us don't. In addition, the airways' mucus glands pour out thick, sticky mucus, and the lining of the airways becomes swollen and inflamed. All of these mechanisms make it hard for air to pass into and out of the lungs.

Coughing is a characteristic asthma symptom. Wheezing during an attack is another telltale sign, but a cough might be the only thing indicating asthma.

Your doctor must have looked for a trigger for your attacks. If one is found, eliminating it assures successful treatment. If a trigger can't be found or can't be eliminated, then medicines have to keep attacks in check. Some asthma drugs dilate the constricted airways, while others soothe the airway lining to minimize mucus production and swelling. Many asthma medicines can be given by inhaler. That route of administration lessens the chances for side effects.

Readers who would like more information on asthma can order the booklet on that topic by writing to Dr. Donohue -- No. 602W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My daughter's boyfriend has focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. What is done for it? They were planning to marry. Is that still possible? -- K.D.

ANSWER: The young man has kidneys in which some of the filters are scarred. It's an autoimmune illness. Prednisone, one of the cortisone drugs, is the medicine usually given for it. Seventy percent of people achieve a remission from it.

Your daughter and her boyfriend can continue to discuss their marriage plans.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

© 2008 North America Synd., Inc.

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