Respiratory health

Possible Complications of Asthma

By Omron Admin - Oct 02, 2018
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Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways. Because asthma is the most common chronic disease among children, proper lifelong management is the key to ensure a good quality of life. Frequent asthma attacks and ongoing inflammation can lead to structural changes in the airways, called airway remodeling. The muscles surrounding the airways become thicker while the cells layers that line the airway become overgrown. When this happens, medications are not able to fully open the airways. Poorly controlled asthma can cause short term and long term complications in both children and adults with asthma. These complications include:

Limitation in activities

In poorly controlled asthma, symptoms may interfere with normal activity. This refers to any kind and amount of activity appropriate for the respective age group. This includes playing actively and participating in sports for children. While for adults, this may include exercise, housework, and caring for others.

Some asthma patients may also avoid exercise due to fear of worsening their condition. Although exercise helps to improve asthma symptoms, it may sometimes trigger an asthma attack or the individual may have exercise-induced asthma. Inability to exercise may lead to other health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and weight gain.

Sleep deprivation

A survey among asthmatic individuals published in The American Journal of Medicine reported as high as 74% of patients experience night time symptoms at least once a week. While 26% experience it almost every night.

Nocturnal or night time asthma is presented with wheeze, cough, and shortness of breath that cause night time awakening and sleep deprivation. Over time, chronic lack of sleep can cause problems with the ability to function during the day at work or at school. This can lead to under performance or absence from work and learning problems in children.

Psychological problems

Any chronic condition may cause tremendous stress for the patients. Uncontrolled asthma is associated with stress, anxiety and depression.


Asthma attacks can lead to emergency department visits and hospitalizations. Although most patients who received treatment recover, hospitalizations imposed an economic burden through work absent and healthcare expenditures. This will also cause impairment in the life of the patient, as they have to address their health issue instead of working or studying.

Respiratory complications

Although rare, asthma can sometimes cause life-threatening respiratory complications including pneumonia (infection of the lungs), pneumothorax (collapse of part or the entire lung), respiratory failure or status asthmaticus (severe asthma attacks that do not respond to treatment). According to Global Initiative for Asthma, roughly one in 250 deaths occur annually worldwide due to asthma. But many of these deaths are actually preventable with proper symptom and emergency care.

Without proper control, asthma can have an adverse effect on your quality of life. It will not only cause great loss to individuals and families but can cause serious social consequences. Thus, an in-depth understanding of asthma and proper management should be implemented right from the onset of illness. Knowing the complications of asthma can also help to raise awareness on the importance of its management.


Yong-hua Gao et al., ‘The Relationship between Depression and Asthma: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies’, PLOS ONE 10, no. 7 (21 July 2015): e0132424,

Lisette van den Bemt et al., ‘How Does Asthma Influence the Daily Life of Children? Results of Focus Group Interviews’, Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 8 (14 January 2010): 5, M. Turner-Warwick, ‘Epidemiology of Nocturnal Asthma’, The American Journal of Medicine 85, no. 1B (29 July 1988): 6–8.


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