The mechanisms behind the development of severe asthma are poorly understood. However, these patients disproportionately consume healthcare resources related to asthma. Severe asthma may develop over time, or may develop shortly after onset of the disease. The genetic and environmental elements that may be most important in the development of severe disease are poorly understood. Physiologically, these patients often have air trapping and airway collapsibility. The pathology demonstrates a heterogeneity of findings, including continued eosinophilic inflammation, an apparently different pathology, structural changes likely to be remodelling related, and predominant distal disease. Treatment remains problematic and likely will remain so until a better understanding of this disease develops.