Adult-onset asthma: a treatable mystery

DALLAS (KFSN) -- About 25 million Americans have asthma and the number continues to go up. One in eleven children have it. One in twelve adults.

While medical researchers still don't know exactly what causes asthma, they can treat it better than ever before.

Until a trip to China, 58-year-old Scott Collins enjoyed running and playing sports without any problems. But ten years ago on that trip, he started wheezing and was diagnosed with adult-onset onset asthma.

"I remember friends of mine when I was a kid who had asthma, thinking about what that would be like and glad I didn't have it. And so for me, to have it and to get it at that late stage really was a shock," Collins shared.

But now Scott controls his asthma with an inhaler, regular medication and trips to see his doctor.

"The fact is that we don't know why some people have it as adults. We don't know what factors of the environment that interact with this genetic predisposition," says Mark W. Millard, MD, FCCP, Baylor Martha Foster Lung Center, Wanda and Collins Burton Endowed Chair in Pulmonology at Baylor University Medical Center.

Researchers suspect vulnerable genes triggered later in life by air pollution, viral infections, tobacco smoke, fumes or allergies are what bring on asthma. But here's good news, we now have advanced medications that prevent or suppress asthmatic attacks altogether.

Dr. Millard continued, "It is one of the most exciting times in my professional career as we are poised on the crest of the wave to understand why someone develops asthma."

With his asthma controlled, Scott is back on track, running with a great outlook on life.

"You gotta say, I'm gonna go do this. It's not gonna stop me. It's not gonna debilitate me," Collins explained.

Remember, exercise can induce an asthma attack, but Dr. Millard says with proper medication and medical supervision people with asthma can exercise as much as anyone else.

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