Background and aims: As the awareness of sensory stimuli is often impaired in older subjects, it has been hypothesized that the aging process may influence the perception of dyspnea. This study aimed at evaluating the aging-related difference in perception of spontaneously occurring dyspnea in adult asthmatics and at whether any such aging-related differences have an effect on the health-related quality of life (HRQOL).
Methods: 18 elderly asthmatics (EA) aged >65 years and 20 young asthmatics (YA) (age range 16-44 years) were recruited. In all subjects, 12-month asthma symptom score and respiratory function were recorded. Dyspnea was measured at rest by the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) and HRQOL by the St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ).
Results: Although the groups did not differ for FEV1% predicted, the EA showed lower VAS scores (9.9+/-19.8 mm vs 19.5+/-17.0, p<0.05). As regards HRQOL, only the "Symptom" section of SGRQ showed lesser impairment in EA.
Conclusions: Aging is associated with blunted sensation of dyspnea. This only partly attenuates the disease-related impairment in quality of life, and other factors are presumed to counterbalance this effect.