Asthma

A common chronic disease, carrying a heavy burden

Like allergies, asthma is a prevalent chronic disease. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 235 million people worldwide have asthma – around 30 million of them living in Europe. According to WHO estimates, around 383,000 people died from asthma in 2015.

People living with asthma may experience several symptoms such as sleep disorders, impairment of cognitive function, depression and anxiety. The burden of asthma, however, not only affects the patients themselves but also creates an additional indirect cost to the economy.

The total cost of asthma in Europe is 17.7 billion EUR per year, and productivity loss due to patients’ poor control of their asthma is estimated at 9.8 billion EUR per year. Up to 62.5% of the total costs caused by asthma are related to working days lost and days with limited, non-work-related activities. Additionally, asthma is the leading cause of school absences, emergency visits and hospitalisations in Europe, creating an annual average cost of 1,583 euro per patient.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a widespread chronic disease that causes inflammation of the smaller airways of the lungs. It results in breathlessness and wheezing with severity and frequency varying from person to person. 

During an asthma attack, the lining of the bronchial tubes swell, causing the airways to narrow and reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs Asthma occurs either due to an allergic (lgE-mediated) background, called allergic asthma, or on a non-allergic background, called intrinsic asthma.

Asthma can start at any age, but very often it starts in childhood. Below allergies in chronic disease ranking, asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in children. Not unusual asthma runs in the family but may be also triggered by other factors.

Triggers and Symptoms

For 90% of people with asthma, allergies like pollen, dust mites, mould and pet dander are a contributing cause. External matters like exposure to tobacco smoke and chemicals are considered risk factors. However,weather conditions such as cold or extreme dry air may trigger asthma.

Asthma patients who do have their disease uncontrolled experience fatigue and breathlessness when doing daily activities or sports. Exercise, a healthy diet and a supportive way of thinking can, however, significantly help ease asthma symptoms. For people living with severe asthma, taking care of beneficial foods and looking for good air quality becomes fundamental, as they are less responsive to standard asthma therapy.