It can be easy to take something as natural as breathing for granted, but for the approximately 25 million people living with asthma in the U.S., it can sometimes be difficult.
While asthma can inflame and narrow the airways of the lungs, healthcare professionals can often help those living with asthma successfully manage their symptoms enough to participate in regular activities.
Yet not all asthma is the same, and research shows that many struggle to manage burdensome symptoms like wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath – despite adhering to their current management plan.[i] In fact, nearly 30 - 50% of people living with asthma remain symptomatic while taking their medication as prescribed.[ii][iii][iv][v][vi] Some people with persistent asthma, may have uncontrolled asthma, meaning these symptoms negatively impact their quality of life.
“Uncontrolled asthma is generally defined as having very frequent symptoms that interfere with the daily lives of those living with the condition,” says Carl Abbott, Senior Director, COPD & Asthma. This includes poor control of symptoms despite regularly taking asthma medication.
Recognizing that some symptoms don’t have to be a part of daily life
When the symptoms of asthma are left unmanaged, the result can be a significant disruption to daily life. Unfortunately, many have accepted their symptoms and can go years without seeking proper treatment. Rather than getting the care they need, people like Bernadette may develop coping mechanisms to deal with the burden of their symptoms.
Asthma is always in the back of my mind, but I have accepted it as part of life. It’s impacted my relationships. It dictates which of my friends’ homes I can visit because of the cleaning products, perfumes or candles they use, and I don’t go to see comedies at the movie theater with my sister anymore because laughing makes me wheeze.
Despite the compromises Bernadette makes each day, she feels like she has her asthma under control, and she is not alone in this mentality. A 2020 GSK survey of more than 1,000 people living with asthma in the U.S. revealed that 70% of respondents felt their condition was under control when it was, in fact, not being managed effectively.[viii] This false sense of confidence may contribute to recurring asthma symptoms, increased visits to the doctor, and frequent use of a rescue inhaler.
How can people living with asthma tell when their symptoms are not well-managed? A good indicator is persistent symptoms that occur more than twice a week, like coughing late at night or early in the morning. Other signs may include using rescue inhalers as a source of quick relief more than twice a week, needing oral corticosteroid medicine for asthma attacks, waking up at night with asthma symptoms more than two times per month or refilling recue inhalers more than two times per year.[ix] [x] If a person depends on rescue inhalers to manage frequent symptoms, it could be time to discuss the impact of their asthma with a doctor.
“Over the course of a year, uncontrolled asthma attacks could lead to multiple appointments with your doctor or even hospitalizations,” says Dr. Abbott. “If the condition begins to interfere with sleep, work, and everyday life, it’s a good indicator that it’s not well-controlled and you may need to discuss a different treatment plan with your doctor.”
Dr. Abbott also suggests asthma patients take an assessment called the Asthma Control Test, which was created by QualityMetric Incorporated and measures how well your asthma is controlled. After taking the test, patients can share results with their doctor to “determine the best path forward,” he says.
The burden of poorly managed asthma is significant
Research shows that failure to manage the symptoms of asthma can have a far-reaching negative impact. Not only are people with poorly controlled asthma at a higher risk for limited physical activity,[xi] but nearly 67% of respondents in GSK’s 2020 survey also said their symptoms have interfered with their overall enjoyment of life.[xii]
“The number of people living with asthma who continue to experience symptoms, despite treatment, is alarming,” says Dr. Abbott.
Patients’ daily lives should not be disrupted by uncontrolled symptoms and their health shouldn’t have to be compromised to participate in everyday activities.
People living with asthma shouldn’t let persistent symptoms get in the way of living their life. At GSK, our scientists are committed to addressing the physical and emotional burden of asthma by advancing understanding of the disease and innovating breakthroughs to allow those struggling to breathe better.
[i] CDC. Asthma - Data and Surveillance - Asthma Surveillance Data. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/asthmadata.htm. Last accessed April 2020
[ii] Bernstein DI, Bateman ED, Woordcock A, et al. Fluticasone furoate (FF)/vilanterol (100/25 mcg) or FF (100 mcg) in persistent asthma. J Asthma. 2015;52(10):1073-1083.
[iii] O’Byrne PM, Bleecker ER, Bateman ED, et al. Once-daily fluticasone furoate alone or combined with vilanterol in persistent asthma. Eur Respir J. 2014;43(3):773-782.
[iv] Woodcock A, Bleecker ER, Lötvall J, et al. Efficacy and safety of fluticasone furoate/vilanterol compared with fluticasone propionate/salmeterol combination in adult and adolescent patients with persistent asthma. Chest. 2013; 144(4): 1222-1229.
[v] Davis J, Trudo F, Siddall J, Small M. Burden of asthma among patients adherent to ICS/LABA: A real-world study. J Asthma. 2019;56(3):332-340.
[vi] Data on file, GSK.
[vii] Lin J, et al. Respir Med. 2015;109(1):44–53
[viii] The State of Uncontrolled Asthma Patients in America Survey. Results available at: http://www.multivu.com/players/English/7806651-gsk-uncontrolled-asthma-survey/docs/updated-5-2-16-factsheet-108394756.pdf. Last accessed April 2020.
[ix] HealthGrades. 6 Signs of Uncontrolled Asthma. Available at: https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/asthma/6-signs-of-uncontrolled-asthma. Last accessed April 2020
[x] Baylor Scott & White Health. Rules to Two®. Available at: https://www.bswhealth.com/specialties/asthma-care/. Last accessed March 2022
[xi] Braido F. Scientifica (Cairo). 2013;2013:549252. doi:10.1155/2013/549252
[xii] The State of Uncontrolled Asthma Patients in America Survey. Results available at: http://www.multivu.com/players/English/7806651-gsk-uncontrolled-asthma-survey/docs/updated-5-2-16-factsheet-108394756.pdf. Last accessed April 2020.