The impact of diagnosed and undiagnosed current asthma in the general adult population

Simone Accordini, Veronica Cappa, Marco Braggion, Angelo G. Corsico, Massimiliano Bugiani, Pietro Pirina, Giuseppe Verlato, Simona Villani, Roberto De Marco

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Background: Restrictive definitions of current asthma are used in epidemiological studies to achieve a highly specific classification of subjects. However, undiagnosed asthmatics should be taken into account to correctly evaluate the impact of the disease in the general population. Methods: In an Italian multi-centre cross-sectional survey carried out in 1998-2000, 18,647 responders (20-44 years old) to a screening questionnaire were classified as having physician-diagnosed current asthma or current respiratory symptoms. Similarities in the risk factor profile and in the socioeconomic burden were considered suggestive of undiagnosed current asthma. Results: In Italy, the prevalence of physician-diagnosed current asthma was 4.9% (95% CI 4.4-5.4), while that of 'asthma attacks and/or use of anti-asthmatic drugs in the past 12 months without a diagnosis of asthma' (ADWD) was 1.5% (95% CI 1.3-1.7). Allergic rhinitis was highly associated with diagnosed current asthma [relative risk ratio (RRR) 12.48; 95% CI 9.12-17.07; reference category: neither asthma during lifetime nor current respiratory symptoms] and with ADWD (RRR 8.42; 95% CI 6.33-11.19). Chronic cough/phlegm was homogeneously associated with all the respiratory conditions, and the strongest relationship was with ADWD (RRR 7.79; 95% CI 4.95-12.25). Subjects with ADWD and diagnosed current asthmatics were characterised by high and homogeneous percentages of individuals who reported productivity losses (19.0 and 15.1%) and hospitalisations (9.2 and 6.2%) because of respiratory problems in the past year. Conclusions: The impact of current asthma seems to be largely underestimated among Italian adults, since the individuals with ADWD may be undiagnosed current asthmatics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-411
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Archives of Allergy and Immunology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Asthma
  • Burden of illness
  • Epidemiology
  • Undiagnosed asthmatics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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