Asthma Complications

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on September 18, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on September 18, 2014

Complications of Asthma

You could suffer a variety of health complications if you don’t treat your asthma symptoms properly. These can range from simple lifestyle disruptions to hospital stays or even death. Proper attention and preventive care can help you avoid the most severe complications.

Lifestyle Disruption

Sleep

Some asthma patients experience most of their symptoms during the night. Over time, this can lead to serious sleep deprivation. Chronic lack of sleep impedes the ability to function properly at work and school. It can be especially dangerous when driving or working with machinery.

Physical Activity

Asthma may keep some people from participating in cardiovascular exercise or sports. A lack of exercise poses risks for other health conditions and weight gain. Loss of physical activity can also lead to depression and other psychological distress.

Productivity

Severe asthma flare-ups can cause excessive absences from work or school. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), asthma is the number one reason children take sick days from school. 

Airway Remodeling

For some people, asthma causes ongoing chronic inflammation of the airway. This can lead to permanent structural changes in the airways if not properly treated. This is known as airway remodeling. It includes all the alterations in structural cells and tissues in an asthmatic airway. These changes can result in permanent loss of lung function and a chronic cough. Possible permanent changes in airway include:

  • airway wall thickening
  • increased mucous glands and mucus production
  • increased blood supply in the airways

Hospitalization

According to the AAFA, asthma accounts for a quarter of all U.S. emergency room visits. Fortunately, almost everyone recovers from even the most severe attacks with emergency treatment.

Symptoms that indicate you should seek emergency care are:

At the hospital, you may be given oxygen through a face mask or nasal tube. You may require a fast-acting medication or a dose of steroids. You will be monitored for a few hours until you are stable. In severe cases, a breathing tube may be inserted into your airway to maintain airflow into your lungs until your asthma symptoms are under control.

Death

Severe asthma attacks constrict the airway. This can lead to complete respiratory failure and death if not treated immediately. The AAFA estimates that 9 Americans die from asthma every day. There are more than 4,000 asthma-related deaths a year in America. However, the AAFA also indicates that many of these deaths could be prevented with proper symptom and emergency care.

Long-Term Outlook

Asthma is a serious disease. However, with attentive and proper care, asthma symptoms and attacks can be controlled to provide a normal, productive life.

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