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Review
July 18, 2017

Diagnosis and Management of Asthma in Adults: A Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
  • 2Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
  • 3Division of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
JAMA. 2017;318(3):279-290. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.8372
Abstract

Importance  Asthma affects about 7.5% of the adult population. Evidence-based diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment can improve functioning and quality of life in adult patients with asthma.

Observations  Asthma is a heterogeneous clinical syndrome primarily affecting the lower respiratory tract, characterized by episodic or persistent symptoms of wheezing, dyspnea, and cough. The diagnosis of asthma requires these symptoms and demonstration of reversible airway obstruction using spirometry. Identifying clinically important allergen sensitivities is useful. Inhaled short-acting β2-agonists provide rapid relief of acute symptoms, but maintenance with daily inhaled corticosteroids is the standard of care for persistent asthma. Combination therapy, including inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting β2-agonists, is effective in patients for whom inhaled corticosteroids alone are insufficient. The use of inhaled long-acting β2-agonists alone is not appropriate. Other controller approaches include long-acting muscarinic antagonists (eg, tiotropium), and biological agents directed against proteins involved in the pathogenesis of asthma (eg, omalizumab, mepolizumab, reslizumab).

Conclusions and Relevance  Asthma is characterized by variable airway obstruction, airway hyperresponsiveness, and airway inflammation. Management of persistent asthma requires avoidance of aggravating environmental factors, use of short-acting β2-agonists for rapid relief of symptoms, and daily use of inhaled corticosteroids. Other controller medications, such as long-acting bronchodilators and biologics, may be required in moderate and severe asthma. Patients with severe asthma generally benefit from consultation with an asthma specialist for consideration of additional treatment, including injectable biologic agents.

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