Objective: To determine asthma patients' patterns of disease and knowledge of asthma.
Design: Telephone survey of patients with diagnosed asthma.
Setting: Residences in 10 Canadian provinces.
Participants: Patients with asthma diagnosed by a doctor: 829 men and women with a mean age of 38 +/- 7 years.
Main outcome measures: Classes of asthma medications, patterns of use, frequency and severity of asthma symptoms use of emergency departments and urgent medical services, participation in asthma education programs, presence of environmental triggers, and knowledge of asthma pathophysiology and treatment.
Results: Four hundred fifty-six patients (55%) reported daily symptoms of asthma; 431 patients (52%) used inhaled beta 2-agonists daily. Only 340 patients (41%) used inhaled corticosteroids (IC), and many used them irregularly. A total of 579 (72%) respondents reported no unscheduled visits to a family physician for worsening asthma, but one third of patients had been to an emergency department for uncontrolled asthma in the last 5 years, and most of these visits had occurred during the last year. As to knowledge, 406 patients (49%) disagreed with the statement that asthma is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured. Among IC users, only 101 (30%) knew that IC reduced airway inflammation; among beta 2-agonist users, only 33% agreed that beta 2-agonists opened the bronchial tubes. Two hundred forty patients (29%) reported being current cigarette smokers, and 381 (46%) reported having pets at home.
Conclusions: Daily symptoms and daily use of beta 2-agonists are common among Canadian asthma patients, and this is in excess of what is considered acceptable by current asthma care guidelines. Underuse of IC, inadequate knowledge of asthma symptoms and treatments, and failure to avoid asthma triggers were common in the population studied.