For the majority of people living with asthma, the condition is a manageable one. Despite being a chronic disease, the symptoms of asthma can be limited through a combination of medication and lifestyle factors.

However, if the condition is poorly controlled it can lead to other health issues.

In this article, we will discuss some of the complications and long-term health effects which asthma can induce, and where feasible, provide some insight into how these might be treated.

Airway Remodelling

Airway remodelling refers to structural changes of the airways and scarring on the lungs.

These adverse changes can occur due to prolonged stimulation of inflammatory cells that trigger abnormal growth or changes. Severe airway remodelling cases can lead to permanent loss of lung function and a chronic cough.

This condition is rare and tends only to occur in severe asthmatics who have a poorly controlled condition. Early administration of inhaled corticosteroid medication can be used to help treat this condition.

However, any airway remodelling which has already taken place cannot be reversed with medication alone, meaning that symptoms such as a lack of breath can become a daily occurrence.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is the term given to a number of lung diseases including emphysema, bronchitis and chronic obstructive airways disease.

It can cause severe breathing difficulties but should not be confused with asthma which is altogether a different inflammatory lung condition.

When an asthmatic is not experiencing a flare up of symptoms they can have a relatively normal lung function; whereas people with COPD will have continuous impaired lung function.

Those living with long-term, severe or difficult to control asthma can develop COPD, and asthmatics who also smoke or experience recurrent chest infections have a significantly higher risk of developing COPD.

Diet-Related Disease

Asthmatics should be encouraged to exercise and remain active. This is because there are potential health benefits for doing so including improved cardiovascular fitness.

For many asthmatics their symptoms can be well-controlled with medication allowing them to lead a relatively normal and healthy life.

If your asthma prevents you from taking part in your usual sports or activities then you should speak to your doctor or asthma specialist. They may look at altering your asthma action plan or medication so that you can reintroduce regular exercise.

By avoiding regular exercise asthmatics may increase their risk of developing obesity which in turn comes with its own set of health complications such as type-2 diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease.

If you are concerned that you might be at risk of diet-related disease, you can approach your doctor for advice.

Mental Health

Just as your emotional wellbeing can have a direct effect on asthma symptoms, asthma can also affect your mental health too.

Living with any chronic illness can lead to stress, anxiety and even depression. There is the potential for your asthma and mental health to be reactive to each other and thus follow a vicious circle.

According to the UK Department of Health mental health problems are more common in asthmatics than those who do not have the condition.

In order to try and avoid the above health complications from developing you should aim to keep your asthma as under control as possible.

This means you should take your prescribed medication as directed by your doctor, include regular exercise into your routine, eat a well-balanced diet and follow your asthma action plan.

Page last reviewed:  28/09/2020