Can my asthma be cured?
No, there is not yet a total cure for asthma.
The causes of asthma are not fully understood. Sometimes children with asthma can grow out of their symptoms, or many years of regular treatment with anti-inflammatory asthma medication may make the disease disappear. However, asthma may recur again later in life in both these groups of patients.
Asthma does not stay the same, but changes over time, and every person with asthma has good days and bad days. It is tempting to think that your asthma has been cured if you have not had symptoms for a long time, but you will usually still have a tendency to asthma if you are exposed to the appropriate triggers in the future.
Allergy treatment using hyposensitisation (often called allergy vaccination) can very occasionally achieve a near-cure of asthma in someone with specific reactions to known allergens, but is unhelpful for most people.
Is there a risk that my asthma will get worse with age?
Yes, that risk cannot be disregarded. Poorly treated asthma gets worse with age, and the lungs of people with untreated asthma function less well than those of non-asthmatic individuals. Modern asthma treatments have not been available for long enough for us to be certain whether or not lung function will still deteriorate more rapidly in patients with treated asthma as they grow older. However, most asthma doctors think that regular, preventive asthma treatment can prevent your asthma from getting worse and help to preserve your lung function.
Can I outgrow my asthma?
Whether you can outgrow your asthma depends on how old you were when it started and how severe it was at the time. Around half the children with mild asthma will have no symptoms by the time they reach their mid-teens. Asthma does, however, often recur in adulthood. Children with more severe asthma are less likely to be free of symptoms when they get older.
Asthma that develops in adulthood can be associated with long-term exposure to specific triggers, such as chemicals or pollution, and can sometimes be greatly improved if the triggers are avoided.
Most asthma can be well controlled with appropriate medication, but as an adult you are unlikely to outgrow it completely.
Is asthma a life-long disease?
Asthma is a long-term (chronic) disease, and the tendency to develop asthma symptoms is probably life-long. In some children, symptoms only appear intermittently. Also, some children with mild asthma will have no symptoms by the time they reach their mid-teens.
Is it worse getting asthma when you are old?
Not necessarily, but asthma is often more severe if it starts at an older age. In addition, an older person with heart disease or other medical problems may have more difficulty in dealing with an asthma attack than a younger person.
What is called asthma in elderly people is sometimes actually chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is a different disease from asthma, and occurs mainly in cigarette smokers. COPD is generally a more serious disease than asthma, because the changes in the airways are much more difficult to treat, and it usually has a worse outcome.