Asthma in older adults: understudied, underdiagnosed and under treated

Published Online: September 2011

Asthma is an important disease in the older adult, which continues to be understudied, frequently under diagnosed, and undertreated. In a recent issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Hanania and King et al, report the proceedings of a recent workshop on asthma in older adults sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). This workshop grew out of a working group of physicians and scientists from the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers bringing to the attention of the NIA the many gaps in knowledge and very little research on Asthma in the Elderly. The participants in this workshop included physicians and scientists from academia, government, and industry.

Many challenges exist in the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of asthma in the older adults. Furthermore, data suggest that the pathophysiological mechanisms of asthma in older adults are likely to be different from those seen in young asthmatics and that these differences may influence the clinical course, management, and outcomes of asthma in this population. At least two traits exist among older asthmatics; those with long-standing asthma have more severe airflow limitation and less complete reversibility than those with late-onset asthma, while those with late onset asthma often have similar clinical and physiologic consequences as seen with younger individuals. Coexisting illnesses and the psychosocial effects of aging may affect the clinical presentation and course of asthma in this population.

The immediate goals of this workshop were to summarize current understanding about the mechanisms of asthma in older persons, to identify knowledge gaps and research opportunities leading to improved medical care and health outcomes for older people with asthma. Areas for future research studies were identified and resulted in three NIH program announcements, which are described in the proceedings.


The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology