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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 Mar;121(3):548-57; quiz 558-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2008.01.012.

Clinical assessment of asthma progression in children and adults.

Author information

  • 1Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Pediatrics, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, CO 80206, USA. spahnj@njc.org


Asthma is a heterogeneous disorder with a variable course, characterized by episodes of cough, wheezing and shortness of breath, reversible airflow limitation, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness. It begins early in life in many subjects with intermittent symptoms occurring with viral respiratory tract infections. Over time, and in genetically susceptible children (those with an atopic predisposition), the disease becomes more persistent with symptoms occurring in the absence of respiratory tract infections. Children with persistent wheezing are eventually diagnosed with asthma, with those at greatest risk having developed allergic sensitization early in life. Among children with asthma, some will have lifelong asthma with active symptoms and progressive loss of lung function over time, whereas other children will undergo asthma remission in adolescence. Once in remission, the disease may remain quiescent, or it may relapse in midadult life. This review focuses on studies that have enhanced our understanding of the progression of asthma from infancy to adulthood. Studies evaluating progressive loss of lung function, the best-studied measure of asthma progression, are also reviewed, followed by a brief discussion of whether asthma progression can be modified by inhaled glucocorticoid therapy.

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