Does asthma ever become more predictable?

This is possibly a strange/stupid question, but I’ve been wondering if asthma ever becomes more predictable... I know it’s a variable condition and that different people have different experiences. I was diagnosed about 18 months ago and obviously it took a while to get my head round what was going on. I’m now more used to my symptoms and triggers and try to avoid things that set my asthma off where possible. I go through periods of time where I have good control and rarely need my reliever, and then there are times when symptoms get worse and I know straight away what has triggered this. But there are also times when everything seems to have been going well and I’m not expecting any problems but out of the blue I start getting symptoms and have no idea why. It feels like every time I think I’ve reached a point where I know my asthma well and how I will react, it goes and surprises me again! What I’m wondering is – does it ever become more predictable? Is it possible to spot patterns - does this just take time? Or do I just have to accept that asthma is variable and expect ups and downs at any random time?! I’m interested to hear about peoples experiences/opinions, but sorry if this post makes no sense!

12 Replies

  • You and me both. All seems to be hunkey dory then wham!! i was diagnosed 4 years ago never really got to grips with it, very up and down mainly i found out i was trying to control my asthma on non steroid inhalers which i am still going to do eventually again but taking them correctly is essential as i found out to my detriment. I had an asthma attack last october knew i was not right for a few days but kept plodding on thinking everything was ok and that one landed me in A & E but to this day do not know what the trigger was so its not only you Shy1 you are not alone. What really angers me i never had asthma at all until 4 years ago after i had 4 viruses in 11 months and one of those now transpired by the cardiac consultant to be a chest infection they think as my ticker seems to be ok (all quietly panicking as had previous heart problems) but this time was not the guilty party!! lol my lungs were.

    Hope this helps and yes fair share of dodgy instances, another one was in the middle of Victoria Station - London lungs decided they could not cope had husband, policeman and shopkeeper looking very worried just managed to dodge the ambulance this time even though i think the police wanted it there i just wanted to get home and we did and all was fine.

    i cough with my asthma although do get breathless and wheeze occasionally which i never used to do - a new trend i think!!

  • I wish I knew the answer to this one! I feel like if I did I would be a multi-millionaire as I would also be able to predict lottery numbers etc - my lungs feel like they're about as predictable.

    Mine do exactly the same as yours - I do know my main triggers but even then things aren't predictable (for instance I've noticed a cumulative effect: if I'm exposed to a major trigger then I'll react to all my other ones much more and be much more sensitive than a bit - though I've found this a bit less on the Symbicort, at least before this flare-up). But so often - like now - I have a flare-up and absolutely no idea what could have caused it!

    I suppose this isn't really that helpful but at least you know you're not alone. I told the AUK nurse today that I'm weird which she thought was quite funny.

  • Hi Shy1. It's not a stupid question at all - I'm still wondering the same thing but I think that the short answer is usually No.

    The long answer is that things seem to change over time. I won't go into tedious detail, but my lungs appear to go through stages of reacting differently to the same triggers. For example, at the moment I mostly cough for hours at a time. But not always. And I havent got a clue what makes my lungs decide if they're going to cough or get breathless or whatever other ridiculous behavior that they dream up for my entertainment.

    To make life more interesting, as Philomela says, once something has irritated my lungs they become far more sensitive and get upset by things that would normally not upset them at all, so things get even more unpredictable.

    This probably doesn't help, except maybe to let you know that you aren't alone!

  • Hi shy1!

    As said previously it seems to change.

    For me, my asthma has very much gone in phases.

    As a child I suffered bad attacks on a regular basis, as a teenager I could do most sports etc and only sometimes get slightly breathless, in my twenties I could go months without needing reliever although I always took my preventer, and now unfortunately in my mid thirties its become very stroppy indeed! :-)

    I think that what I'm trying to say is that you will probably go through good periods and periods where you may not be as well controlled.

  • I agree with what others are saying that asthma can go through different phases. It takes time to recognise where your asthma is.

    I have had asthma for about 25 years and it has gone through many phases. My best was a period of 6 years with relatively no symptoms but my mistake then, was to not react quickly enough when my symptoms started returning. I have just gone through the worst period of my asthma for nearly 2 years and I don't have a clue as to why it occurred. I know I am not out of the woods yet as when I tried to reduce my Symbicort it has knocked me off the level I was at. I did think it might be too soon and it is the start of the worst 3 months of the year foe me but I wanted to listen to the consultant and try it.

    I think this is a very good question Shy1.

  • I'd add to my answer and agree on the stages thing. I was diagnosed with asthma at 7 (no messing around there, there was never any doubt then what it was) and had it mildly for a few years - it got milder and milder as I got older, I hardly ever used reliever and by the time I went to university I didn't consider myself asthmatic anymore, though in hindsight I think it was still lurking as there were a couple of episodes even then - but all I had was a very old inhaler and I got by ok.

    This latest flare-up (which I am now convinced is asthma as it just seems too weird for me to have dodgy lungs and it NOT be asthma given my history and all the asthmatics in my family) has been going on about 3 years now and it is a lot harder to control than before.

    Maybe, like JF said, you need to jump on symptoms very quickly and if you don't they get more out of control? I often feel asthma's a bit like fire-fighting - you can't put the 'fire' ie inflammation out but you can damp it down. Sorry to hear you've slid back again though JF as you were doing so well - that must be really annoying! Hope it doesn't take too long to get back to where you were.

    As I've said before I think, it often feels like an endless game of Snakes and Ladders.

  • Thanks Philomela, it is annoying but I am still staying active and enjoying walks, just needing loads more ventolin, more rest stops and occasionally impersonating a snail! I hope your blip is short-lived too.

  • Thanks - I know the feeling! I've just gone down a snake - it seems in Asthma Snakes and Ladders when you go down one it wraps itself around you lol.

    Here's hoping we can all find a nice big ladder soon and ditch all the snakes.

  • i think asthma can for some follow a pattern, mine is worse in the winter and fine in the summer, yet for others their is no pattern and this is down to what triggers your asthma. After a couple of years you should be able to decide which you are, but also if your's is seasonal, their is no guarantee it will stay that way, the lungs keep remodeling and that's what makes it unpredictable.

  • Thank you for all your responses. It's reassuring to know that I'm not alone in often having no idea what has caused my symptoms, though of course I wish things would be a little more predictable for all of us. I'm hoping that after a few more months I might have a slightly clearer picture of triggers and and how I react, but I won't be that surprised if I don't! It's only been 18 months after all, and some of that time has been spent trying different inhalers. Since I can't seem to blame any of my usual obvious triggers this time, I think possibly these latest symptoms might be stress related. I've heard this can be a trigger and I've a lot on my mind at the moment so maybe it's a possibility. Does anyone else find stress to be a trigger and, if so, do you have any useful strategies for minimising the impact it has on your asthma? Sorry, more questions!

  • Yes, I find extreme stress a trigger but not everyday levels of stress. I had extreme stress a few years ago whilst waiting nearly 2 years for a trial that I was a witness in and a very unsupportive workplace at the time (managers not colleagues)and the asthma nurse I was seeing at the time agreed with me that I was just not as responsive to my meds or any new meds because of it. I had to just ride it out in the end and when my stress levels went down, my asthma improved dramatically. Knowing this at the time did help me try and be more relaxed through it, as much as I could. But sorry, no magic answers.

  • It's very possible stress could be a trigger - sometimes any emotional excitement can be! My mum has told me that my uncle when he was a kid would have an asthma attack before he went back to school, at Christmas and before things like going to the pantomime - the doctor apparently used to wait up on Christmas Eve every year because he knew that he'd be called out without fail to give my uncle an adrenaline injection, which back then was the emergency asthma treatment of choice.

    So I'd say it's very possible your lungs could be misbehaving if you've had a lot going on. I haven't worked out whether it is for me or not yet (it could be, but on the other hand it's been relatively good at a very stressful time - and if I'm honest I'd be reluctant to admit stress as a trigger to doctors if I did know it was one for me because I feel like in my case they'd jump on it and tell me it was all down to that, and I do know it isn't! But that's just me.)

    That was a very roundabout and not very helpful way of saying it seems sensible but I'm not sure what you could do! I have an idea that part of the reason stress is bad for asthma is chemical, but you might also be getting into bad breathing habits when stressed and might benefit from seeing someone like a physio to correct them?

    Sorry, this isn't that helpful - I might just fall back on something I often say lol and suggest you call the AUK nurses as I'm sure they have some good suggestions about what you could do.

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