Asthma patients are more likely than others to suffer from a range of diseases, says a Canadian study.
The new research from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), Toranto has found that individuals with asthma see their doctor 72% more often for other diseases, like pneumonia, anxiety and obesity."
"Treating comorbidity has been shown to improve asthma outcomes as well as overall health. Despite this, asthma comorbidity remains relatively under recognized and understudied—perhaps because most asthma occurs in young people who are believed to be healthy and relatively free of comorbidity," says Andrea Gershon, lead author, ICES Scientist and Respirologist and Scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
Individuals with asthma go to see their physician 72 percent more often for disease other than asthma compared to individuals without asthma.
Individuals with asthma go to the emergency department more than twice as often for disease other than asthma.
Individuals with asthma require hospitalization 66 percent more often for disease other than asthma.
Despite asthma being a disease of younger and healthier populations and despite it having few proven causal links with other diseases, asthma comorbidity is common and has a significant impact on individuals and health care systems.
Together, asthma and asthma comorbidity were found to be associated with: 6 percent of the 2.2 million hospitalizations, 9 percent of the 4.7 million emergency room visits, and 6 percent of the 131.3 million ambulatory care visits in Ontario in 2005.
Other respiratory disease, psychiatric disease, and musculoskeletal disease were the most common types of comorbidity found in individuals with asthma.
The cause-and-effect relationships are unclear, the researchers said. Factors could include whether poor asthma control or asthma treatment are linked with the other diseases, whether other diseases cause asthma, where something else causes both, or if some combination is at play.
But if researchers find out more about how asthma affects the body beyond the lungs, then it might help in the search for better ways to treat it, help people to feel better and use fewer health-care resources, says Dr. Andrea Gershon.
The study "Burden of Comorbidity in Individuals with Asthma" is in the July 13, 2010 issue of Thorax.
According to the World Health Organization, Canada has one of the highest prevalence rates of clinical asthma in the world — about 14 per cent — but one of the lowest fatality rates from the disease, at 1.6 deaths per 100,000 asthmatics.
The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Ontario and the Public Health Agency of Canada.