Asthma in the Elderly

  • Nages Nagaratnam
  • Kujan Nagaratnam
  • Gary Cheuk
Reference work entry


In the elderly, asthma is superimposed on changes related to ageing, immune function and other diseases common in older age. The aetiology of asthma in the elderly is multifactorial and complex. One-third of the older patients experience breathlessness which is a non-specific symptom in the elderly, and the differential diagnosis includes, besides asthma, COPD and non-respiratory conditions such as cardiac failure, deconditioning, obesity and infection, amongst others. Cough is a prominent symptom in the elderly asthmatics and may be the only symptom. The difficulty of making a diagnosis in the elderly is due to a number of factors. Spirometry has been used as a ‘gold standard’ in the diagnosis of asthma but there a number of limitations especially in the older patient. Asthma is common in the elderly and often is misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed and undertreated resulting in significant negative consequences for the patient’s health.


Elderly asthma Late-onset asthma Spirometry Beta-agonists Antimuscarinics 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nages Nagaratnam
    • 1
  • Kujan Nagaratnam
    • 1
  • Gary Cheuk
    • 2
  1. 1.The University of SydneyWestmead Clinical SchoolWestmeadAustralia
  2. 2.Rehabilitation and Aged Care ServiceBlacktown-Mt Druitt HospitalMount DruittAustralia

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