Key points

  • In Europe, about 30 million children and adults less than 45 years old have asthma.
  • In western Europe, the prevalence of asthma increased in the latter part of the 20th century, but it now appears to be levelling off in many countries; the UK and Ireland have some of the highest rates of asthma in the world.
  • Adults with asthma include those who have had asthma since childhood, those in whom it apparently resolved but has subsequently recurred and those who have developed asthma de novo in adult life.
  • Asthma can develop in the elderly but, because of similar clinical features, it may be difficult to distinguish asthma from COPD in older individuals.
  • Most patients with asthma can be managed successfully in primary care according to widely accepted guidelines, but a significant proportion require specialist referral and supervision.

See the entire Adult asthma Chapter