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Complications of Asthma: Its Short-term and Long-term Effects

Complications of Asthma: Its Short-term and Long-term Effects

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition of the lungs caused due to inflammation in the airways. This narrows down the airways and gives rise to symptoms of asthma like wheezing and shortness of breath. The extent of the complications of asthma determines the course of treatment and whether it will have long-term or short-term effects. The treatment of asthma depends on the type of symptoms. The common forms of asthma treatment include changes in lifestyle, use of inhalers, and prescription medications.

Symptoms of Asthma

So, here are the common symptoms of asthma:

  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing or a whistle-like sound while breathing

Every individual with asthma does not experience the same symptoms. The severity of symptoms also varies amongst people with asthma. Some people experience only mild symptoms like a blocked nose or runny nose, which subside on its own in some time. There are also symptoms like coughing and wheezing that might look mild, but can flare-up into serious symptoms and may also trigger an asthma attack.

Some severe forms of asthma may also require medications to keep the flare-ups under check and prevent asthma attacks. In some cases, the complications of asthma may be short-term and treatable with medications. On the other hand, the complications may require the individual to be under long-term medical support.

Asthma can be treated but not entirely cured. It may be frequent or regular amongst some and occasional for others, initiated by being exposed to conditions that trigger the symptoms of asthma.

When the feeling of breathlessness becomes unbearable, an inhaler is recommended. However, immediate medical care becomes essential when the asthmatic individual shows the following symptoms even after using an inhaler:

  • Extreme breathlessness
  • Severe pain in the chest
  • Difficulty in talking and walking
  • Bluish skin – a sign of asphyxiation caused as a result of lack of oxygen in the body due to difficulty in breathing

Asthma attacks are usually short-term complications of asthma, while depression and anxiety are generally long-term side effects.

Here, we discuss the short-term and long-term complications of asthma in greater detail.

Short-term complications of asthma

complications of asthma

Problems with daily tasks

The primary symptoms of asthma like difficulty in breathing, coughing, runny nose, and wheezing often affect your mental well-being, preventing you from living life as usual. You may not feel like going to school or work. Naturally, other daily activities also get affected – your hobbies, workout, and even sleep and relaxation.

This might cause stress, increasing the risk of diabetes and other medical conditions of the heart. The inability to continue with your regular life because of asthma can occur if you have ignored your symptoms, not visited a doctor, or you have not been following the treatment advised by your doctor. Hence, this is a short-term asthma complication till you switch to a lifestyle that manages your condition well.

Severe asthma attacks

The symptoms of asthma can occur regularly or frequently. According to a study, up to 10% of asthmatic patients are diagnosed with severe asthma. For them, the complications of asthma can occur frequently or daily. These complications include asthma attacks that may not respond positively to treatment, even if they are mild in intensity. Despite such attacks being a short-term asthma complication, you might need an emergency visit to the hospital, where you will be kept under close observation.

Side effects of medications

Although rare, certain medications used in the management of asthma can increase the risk of other health conditions like osteoporosis, high blood sugar, a fungal infection in the mouth, or other respiratory infections. Asthma by itself does not lead to these medical conditions.

However, people who take oral prescription medications for asthma are more susceptible to these side effects than those who are prescribed inhalers and other forms of treatment. These oral drugs, like corticosteroids, may also cause other side effects like increased hunger, hyperactivity, and disturbed sleep. Consumption of oral corticosteroids might also raise the risk of other medical conditions like osteoporosis, high blood sugar, weight gain, headaches, nausea, and fatigue.

The side effects of inhaled medications are usually negligible and may include sore throat or hoarseness. But, people who have been prescribed the highest dose of inhaled corticosteroids are more than twice as likely to be susceptible to pneumonia or infections of the lower respiratory tract. This can occur when the inhalers are not thoroughly cleaned. Another reason may be because corticosteroids interfere with the normal functioning of the immune system.

In case you are experiencing any new symptoms after taking the oral medications, bring it to the notice of your doctor immediately, so that he/she can decide on the next course of action.

Long-term complications of asthma

As indicative of the name, long-term complications of asthma are usually permanent in nature. These are as below:

Disturbed sleep

Nocturnal asthma implies the inability to sleep peacefully at night. This gradually causes sleep deprivation, which can disrupt normal life activities.

Diabetes and other heart conditions

Medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure levels, high sugar levels are some of the most common long-term complications of asthma.

Anxiety and Depression

The inability to lead a normal life leads to stress, emotional outbursts, and mood disorders.


Asthma makes it a challenge for people to follow a workout routine. Physical activities can initiate breathlessness, which is one of the most common symptoms of the health condition. The lack of a fitness regimen over a long period automatically leads to obesity. Certain medications for treating asthma may increase appetite, leading to excess food consumption. According to a survey by Asthma UK, about 2 out of 3 people with asthma have said that their health condition has caused them to gain weight.

Remodelling of the airway

Asthma occurs due to inflammation in the airways of your lungs. This narrows down the passage in the airways and fills it with more mucus, blocking the airways even further. If the airways remain blocked over a long time, the shape of the airway may permanently become narrow, apart from other structural changes.

If you know about any more short-term or long-term complications of asthma, you can share them with us in the comments.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Sep 22, 2021
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.