25 million Americans in 2009 suffered from asthma, compared to about 20 million in 2001, in 2001 7% of the country's population was affected, in 2009 8% were affected. In just eight years the number of people diagnosed with asthma grew by 4.3 million, according to a new report published by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) called "CDC Vital Signs, May 2011. Asthma in the US".
1 in every 12 Americans had asthma in 2009, compared to 1 in 14 eight years earlier. The asthma health bill in the USA grew from $53 billion to approximately $56 billion in the eight years up to 2009.
Experts are not sure why this increase has occurred. Over the last ten years air quality has improved and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke has also gone down - two factors known to contribute to asthma risk.
Paul Garbe, D.V.M., M.P.H, chief of CDC's Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch, said:
"Despite the fact that outdoor air quality has improved, we've reduced two common asthma triggers - secondhand smoke and smoking in general - asthma is increasing. While we don't know the cause of the increase, our top priority is getting people to manage their symptoms better."
AsthmaAsthma is a chronic (long-term) disease that affects the airways that carry air to and from our lungs. The inside walls of the airways become inflamed (swollen), making the airways highly sensitive to irritations. When the inside walls of the airways are inflamed and sensitive, the patient is very susceptible to an allergic reaction.
Inflammation causes the airways to narrow, resulting in less air passing to and from the lungs. The patient may start to wheeze, there may be chest tightness, breathing problems and coughing. Most patients with asthma have more severe symptoms during the night and early morning.
Asthma has many known and suspected causes. We know that people with allergies are more likely to develop asthma - a much higher percentage of people with hay fever also suffer from asthma. Breathing-in environmental tobacco smoke (secondhand smoking) can also cause asthma in some people.
Environmental factors can also increase asthma risk, such as indoor pollution from mold or fumes from household cleaners and paints, as well as nitrogen oxide from gas stoves. Asthma risk may also be increased by exposure to sulfur dioxide pollution, ozone, low temperatures, and high humidity. When pollution levels in cities are high, the number of asthma-related hospital admissions increases.
The following are also known or thought to be factors that increase asthma risk - obesity, pregnancy, mental stress, respiratory infections, and genetic factors.
Although asthma is not curable, with proper treatment it is possible to control.
The authors of this CDC report stress the importance of asthma education and services to minimize asthma triggers. Unfortunately, many benefits are not covered in medical insurance.
Below are some highlighted facts from the report:
- Asthma rates increased in all groups of people between 2001 and 2009
- 9.6% of US children have asthma compared to 7.7% of adults
- 11.3% of boys have asthma. Asthma among children is more common in boys than girls
- Between 2001 and 2009 there was a 50% increase in the number of asthma diagnoses in African-American children
- 17% of African-American children have asthma (non-Hispanic)
- Approximately 40% of uninsured Americans with asthma could not afford their prescription medicines
- About 1 in 9 insured Americans with asthma could not afford their asthma prescription drugs
- Between 2002 and 2007 the average American with asthma needed $3,300 per year to cover costs
"Asthma is a serious, lifelong disease that unfortunately kills thousands of people each year and adds billions to our nation's health care costs. We have to do a better job educating people about managing their symptoms and how to correctly use medicines to control asthma so they can live longer more productive lives while saving health care costs."
The following measures can help lower asthma rates, or reduce the severity and frequency of asthma attacks:
- Improve indoor air quality
- Educate people about asthma triggers and how to avoid them
- Encourage doctors to prescribe inhaled corticosteroids for those with persistent asthma
- Encourage doctors to give patients a written action plan
- Introduce national measures that increase patient access to corticosteroids and other prescribed drugs
- Increase the number of health educators, educational sessions in schools and other locations by clinicians, and home environmental assessments.
Written by Christian Nordqvist