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Most Asthmatics Don't Have Illness Under Control

More than half suffer symptoms at least once a week, survey shows

THURSDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- There's a troubling gap between how well asthma patients in the United States think they have the disease under control and how it actually affects their daily lives, according to a survey released Thursday by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

Two-thirds of the survey respondents said they have their asthma symptoms under control, but more than half reported experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and/or phlegm production at least once a week.

"These survey findings illustrate the need for a better standard of control when it comes to managing asthma," Mike Tringale, the AAFA's director of external affairs, said in a prepared statement. "There is a large disconnect between what asthma patients are saying and how they are actually affected by asthma every day, which calls for better education on how to properly control the disease."

The survey, which the AAFA sponsored in collaboration with drug maker AstraZeneca, included more than 4,000 adults aged 18 and older. Among the findings:

  • Asthma was three times more prevalent among people who live with a family member who is also diagnosed with asthma than in the general population.
  • About 62 percent of asthma patients said asthma limits their usual activities or enjoyment of life every day to varying degrees.
  • Almost all asthma patients (92 percent) said they experienced at least one of the five common asthma symptoms in the past year (shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, phlegm production). More than half (63 percent) said they experienced symptoms at least once a week, and 29 percent said they experienced at least one symptom a day.
  • While 68 percent of asthma patients reported that their condition is well controlled, 74 percent said they would like to better control their asthma.
  • Most asthma patients (59 percent) try to avoid taking asthma medications whenever possible, which suggests that they are not properly controlling the disease.
  • One in three (33 percent) asthma patients used a rescue inhaler at least daily, and 73 percent have used a rescue inhaler at least once in the past month.

"Using a rescue medication regularly is a sign that asthma is not properly controlled, and you may be ailing from the disease unnecessarily," Dr. William E. Berger, of the division of allergy and immunology at the University of California, Irvine, said in a prepared statement. "According to NAEPP (National Asthma Education and Prevention Program) respiratory guidelines, asthma patients should ideally use their rescue inhaler twice a week or less."

The survey also examined a number of specific groups of asthma patients and found:

  • Two-thirds (65 percent) of female asthma patients said the condition limits their usual activities or enjoyment of daily life to varying degrees, and 95 percent said they'd experienced at least one of the five common asthma symptoms in the past year.
  • Only 8 percent of Hispanic respondents said they'd been diagnosed with asthma, but 58 percent said they'd experienced asthma symptoms.
  • While 13 percent of black American respondents said they'd been diagnosed with asthma, 58 percent reported experiencing asthma symptoms.
  • Compared to the general sample population, black American respondents were less likely to know about specific asthma risk factors, such as respiratory infections (71 percent vs. 58 percent) and living in an inner city (68 percent vs. 55 percent).

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about asthma control.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, news release, Oct. 25, 2007

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