Severe Asthma Can Have A Devastating, Wide-Ranging Impact

The cost of severe asthma is heavy on sufferers, loved ones and the economy

African American soldier in a wheelchair discusses problems with a female mental health professional.

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Every day in Canada, 300 people are diagnosed with asthma, an inflammatory disease that affects the airways, limiting airflow and making breathing difficult. The country’s third most common chronic disease, asthma affects more than 3.8 million adults and children—or one in five people—and kills about 250 Canadians every year through asthma attacks.1

Between 50 and 70 percent of people with asthma have what’s known as Type 2 inflammation, a particular type of inflammation that occurs deep in the lungs.2

Certain triggers may provoke an asthma attack, or exacerbation as it is known, and when that happens, muscles around the airways become inflamed, causing such symptoms as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.1

According to Dr. Jason Lee, a specialist in clinical immunology and allergy and internal medicine in Toronto, asthma symptoms may be triggered by any number of things: cold air; viral infections; smoke; perfume or other strong scents; allergens such as trees, ragweed, dust mites or mold; pets; intense emotions or exercise.3

According to research, some risk factors can lead to asthma development, including a genetic predisposition, obesity or hormones, among others.1

It is estimated that severe asthma represents between five and 10 percent of asthma cases. Severe asthma can be harder to control, even when multiple medications are used. People with severe asthma may not realize that their asthma falls into this category.2

To be considered severe, a person must have used one of the following prescription medicines in the last 12 months: combination inhaler, anti-IgE biologic agent or anti-IL-5 biologic agent. Severe asthma can be either controlled or uncontrolled.2 “Ideally, you should experience no symptoms,” explains Dr. Lee. “Your symptoms can get triggered if asthma is not controlled.”

Among the signs that asthma may be uncontrolled, one of the following must be true:

  • You need to use a short-acting, or rescue, inhaler more than twice a week
  • Your sleep is disrupted by coughing or other asthma symptoms more than once a week
  • You experience symptoms such as wheezing and chest tightness twice a week or more
  • You have experienced two or more asthma attacks in the past 12 months that required an oral steroid pill2

Despite those relatively small numbers, the impact of uncontrolled severe asthma is wide-ranging, with the disease taking a toll not only on the person’s physical and emotional health but on their social and work or school lives.2 “There’s also stress on the family,” Dr. Lee says, “particularly if the patient is a child.”

Vanessa Foran, president and CEO of Asthma Canada, has seen first-hand the effect that severe uncontrolled asthma can have on Canadians. “Severe uncontrolled asthma can pose a heavy burden on Canadians living with the disease as it directly impedes their quality of life. It can disturb sleep, the ability to exercise, even simple things like walking up stairs. Understandably, this can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life – including their mental health.”

In Canada, the direct cost of asthma on the healthcare system is estimated to be more than $2 billion every year, that includes hospitalizations, professional services and medications. Indirect costs to the economy, such as missed days of work or lower productivity, are expected to be $4.2 billion annually by 2030. It is also estimated that half of all annual healthcare costs for asthma come from the most severe asthmatic population.2

To learn more about severe asthma – visit thenextbreath.ca

1 https://asthma.ca/get-help/understanding-asthma/
2 https://www.thenextbreath.ca/#severe-asthma
3 https://asthma.ca/get-help/asthma-triggers/

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