The authors investigated changes in asthma prevalence and perception of bronchoconstriction over 6 yrs in adults of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Postal questionnaires were sent to 6,000 subjects aged 20-44 yrs in 1992-1993 and 1998-1999. Random samples of 600 responders had assessments of atopy, airway responsiveness, and their ability to perceive methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction. The prevalences of asthmatic symptoms, physician-diagnosis, and medication use increased by an average of 4.4%, particularly in subjects aged <30 yrs (8.7 versus 2.7). Atopy prevalence increased from 25% to 31% but atopics and nonatopics had similar mean changes in questionnaire data (5.2 versus 3.4). The probability of a positive methacholine test decreased as did the mean methacholine dose/response slope (0.00527 to 0.00379), indicating lower levels of airway responsiveness. This can be largely explained by an increase in use of inhaled corticosteroids (5.0-9.3%). The proportion of subjects perceiving bronchoconstriction during methacholine tests increased from 63 to 77%.
The authors conclude that current changes in asthma epidemiology in adults may result from increased awareness of symptoms (and/or an increased willingness to report them), and from an increased willingness of physicians to make the diagnosis and prescribe treatment, not from increased disease prevalence.
- airway responsiveness
- METHACHOLINE-INDUCED BRONCHOCONSTRICTION
- ABERDEEN SCHOOLCHILDREN
- AIRWAYS RESPONSIVENESS
- AEROSOL OUTPUT
- 20-YEAR TRENDS