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No Symptoms, No Asthma - Many Believe This False Assumption

New research shows that many adults with asthma think of their condition as temporary, believing they have asthma only when they have symptoms.

Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, and Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, surveyed 198 adult patients hospitalized with asthma regarding their asthma beliefs and behaviors and characteristics related to their beliefs. More than half of the patients indicated that they only had asthma when they were experiencing symptoms, a belief researchers labeled as, "no symptoms, no asthma." In contrast, 40 percent believed they had chronic asthma, while 6 percent indicated they had asthma most or some of the time. When asked about the lifelong nature of asthma, 20 percent of patients believed they would not always have asthma, and 15 percent expected the doctor to cure them of asthma. Male patients, those over 65 years old, and patients with no usual place of care were more likely to hold the "no symptoms, no asthma" belief. The belief also was associated with one-third lower odds of adherence to asthma medications during asymptomatic times.

In fact, people diagnosed with asthma always have it. Asthma cannot be cured, but most people with asthma can control its symptoms. When asthma symptoms become severe or more apparent it is called an asthma attack or episode. During an episode, muscles around the airways tighten which makes the airways narrower so less air flows through.

Researchers suggest that asthma interventions tailored to an individual's beliefs and behaviors may help with asthma management. The study appears in the March issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.



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