Treatment for mild asthma leads to improved lung function

March 10, 2008

A study by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney is the first to demonstrate that in patients with very mild or well-controlled asthma, regular treatment with low dose ICS leads to significantly better day–to-day lung function.

The study published in this month’s edition of Primary Care Respiratory Journal was conducted over an 11 month period, and compared the effects of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and placebo on asthma control in mild asthmatics.

The results of the study raise questions about the current emphasis in asthma treatment which is based largely on controlling symptoms, and which does not advocate ICS treatment for patients with symptoms two days a week or less.

Results showed significant and clinically important treatment benefits on markers such as lung function, airway hyperresponsiveness and exhaled nitric oxide, which are all predictors of the risk of future adverse outcomes such as exacerbations.

Results indicated that a “ceiling” effect for lung function, often assumed to prevail in mild asthma, does not exist. Even patients whose lung function is over 90% of predicted normal value may have room to further improve their personal best with treatment.

The study also demonstrated subjects receiving placebo were nearly three times more likely to experience a mild exacerbation.

“In recent years the emphasis in asthma treatment has been on how well a patient’s symptoms are is controlled,” says Woolcock research leader Assoc. Prof. Helen Reddel.

“The patients in this study had asthma that was so mild, with symptoms once a week or less, that they themselves didn’t see any benefit in regular preventer treatment,” she said.

“However for those participants receiving ICS during the study, their lung function was better, they had less airway inflammation and less airway twitchiness. All of these things are predictors of reduction in risk of future adverse outcomes

“While we’re not advocating that every patient with mild asthma should be on preventer medication, the study shows that when we are discussing the risks and benefits of treatment with these patients, we should talk about their risk of future exacerbations as well as whether they will notice any difference in their current symptoms”.

“In the same way, for patients with high blood pressure, we talk about giving treatment to reduce their risk of stroke in the future rather than whether they will feel any different here and now.”

Dr Reddel explains that while the study sample size was small, the measurement of airway twitchiness, airway inflammation and daily spirometry provided information about future risk that is often not possible in larger groups.

Source: Research Australia

Explore further: Children with severe asthma at increased risk of developing COPD

Related Stories

Asthma drugs need to be maintained for continued benefit

February 17, 2009

Children whose asthma improved while taking steroid drugs for several years did not see those improvements continue after stopping the drugs, new results from a comprehensive childhood asthma study show.

New asthma research opposes current drug treatment

January 26, 2009

Just when the Food and Drug Administration is reconsidering the use of stimulants to treat asthma, a new research study offers further evidence to support a University of Houston professor's theory that an opposite approach ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.