Patients with asthma who are aged over 55 years are far more likely to experience symptom ‘flare-ups’ and should have more regular check-ups than younger asthmatics, according to research presented at the British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting (6–8 December 2017).
The population-based cohort study, conducted by researchers from Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, examined the medical records of more than 424,000 patients with all types of asthma, from mild to severe. The BTS/ SIGN British Guideline on the Management of Asthma was used to measure the risk of a flare-up of symptoms within each patient.
The findings showed that most people with asthma in the UK have a mild form of the condition and do not tend to experience flare-ups.
The research also revealed that people with asthma aged over 55 years were far less likely to have mild asthma than the younger cohort and far more likely to experience symptom flare-ups despite taking routine treatment.
The researchers said this could be because older patients tend to have asthma alongside other conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which may affect their lungs and immune system, making asthma attacks more likely.
Lead researcher Chloe Bloom, who is a member of the British Thoracic Society and respiratory clinical academic at Imperial College London, said the study had real implications for the treatment of asthma in older people and highlights the need for more check-ups.
“We face an increasingly ageing population in the UK yet, historically, older asthma patients have been treated in a similar way to younger ones. Our research implies that as older asthma patients are more likely to have potentially threatening attacks, some may need a different type of care,” she explained.
“This could include, for example, older people at greater risk, because of their age and medical history, having more regular check-ups with their GP — the current standard is only one routine checkup each year.”