Asthma control or severity: that is the question


M. Humbert
Service de Pneumologie
Hôpital Antoine-Béclère
Assistance-Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris
Université Paris-Sud 11


In the first National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) guidelines, the level of symptoms and airflow limitation and its variability allowed asthma to be subdivided by severity into four subcategories (intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, and severe persistent). It is important to recognize, however, that asthma severity involves both the severity of the underlying disease and its responsiveness to treatment. Thus, the first update of the GINA guidelines defined asthma severity depending on the clinical features already proposed as well as the current treatment of the patient. In addition, severity is not a fixed feature of asthma, but may change over months or years, whereas the classification by severity suggests a static feature. Moreover, using severity as an outcome measure has limited value in predicting what treatment will be required and what the response to that treatment might be. Because of these considerations, the classification of asthma severity is no longer recommended as the basis for treatment decisions, a periodic assessment of asthma control being more relevant and useful.