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The changing face of severe asthma

Almost two out of three children with severe asthma are boys. But women account for more than two out of three adults with severe asthma. And no one really knows why. Those are some of the most striking results of a cross-sectional study of severe asthma by researchers from National Jewish Medical and Research Center being published in the October issue of the journal Chest. The research team, led by Joseph Spahn, M.D., also found that children with severe asthma had surprisingly good airflow in and out of their lungs, which could lead to misdiagnosis and undertreatment of seriously ill patients.

"Our findings highlight many of the significant differences between severe asthma in children and adults," said Dr. Spahn. "We hope they will spur further research that can lead to a better understanding and better treatment of this disease."

People with severe asthma, whose asthma remains uncontrolled in spite of high doses of medication, represent 5 percent to 10 percent of the estimated 20 million asthma patients in the United States. But they are important in terms of suffering, medical costs and difficulty finding effective treatments. Dr. Spahn and his colleagues examined a variety of demographic and biological data for 275 patients with severe asthma who had been referred to National Jewish.

Physicians have suspected that severe asthma differs considerably from childhood to adulthood, and indeed that turned out to be the case. The greatest difference was the male-to-female ratio. Males accounted for 62% of the patients under age 18. But 68% of the severe asthma patients over 18 were female. A similar situation has been noted in mild and moderate asthma, but not in patients with severe asthma.

"There has been speculation that a woman's hormones or possibly a difference in the size of male and female lungs play a role in this changing pattern of asthma prevalence, but no one really knows for sure why it occurs," said Dr. Spahn. "If we could learn w
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Contact: William Allstetter
allstetterw@njc.org
303-398-1002
National Jewish Medical and Research Center
14-Oct-2003


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