Difficult vs. Severe Asthma: Definition and limits of asthma control in the pediatric population

Amelia Licari, Ilaria Brambilla, Alessia Marseglia, Maria De Filippo, Valeria Paganelli, Gian L. Marseglia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Evaluating the degree of disease control is pivotal when assessing a patient with asthma. Asthma control is defined as the degree to which manifestations of the disease are reduced or removed by therapy. Two domains of asthma control are identified in the guidelines: symptom control and future risk of poor asthma outcomes, including asthma attacks, accelerated decline in lung function, or treatment-related side effects. Over the past decade, the definition and the tools of asthma control have been substantially implemented so that the majority of children with asthma have their disease well controlled with standard therapies. However, a small subset of asthmatic children still requires maximal therapy to achieve or maintain symptom control and experience considerable morbidity. Childhood uncontrolled asthma is a heterogeneous group and represents a clinical and therapeutic challenge requiring a multidisciplinary systematic assessment. The identification of the factors that may contribute to the gain or loss of control in asthma is essential in differentiating children with difficult-to-treat asthma from those with severe asthma that is resistant to traditional therapies. The aim of this review is to focus on current concept of asthma control, describing monitoring tools currently used to assess asthma control in clinical practice and research, and evaluating comorbidities and modifiable and non-modifiable factors associated with uncontrolled asthma in children, with particular reference to severe asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170
JournalFrontiers in Pediatrics
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Asthma
  • Asthma control and severity
  • Difficult to treat asthma
  • Severe asthma
  • Severe asthma risk factors
  • Treatment adherence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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