Despite the high prevalence of asthma in the elderly, its development, diagnosis, and treatment are under-researched. This paper provides a comprehensive review of the current state of knowledge in relation to management of asthma in the elderly - focusing on barriers to diagnosis and treatment and the central role of self-management. Asthma prevalence increases with age, as does the risk of dying from asthma, and with the ageing of the population and increasing life expectancy, the prevalence of (diagnosed and undiagnosed) asthma in older adults is expected to increase drastically, placing an increasing burden on sufferers, the community and health budgets. Asthma sufferers are more likely to be psychologically distressed and at a higher risk of anxiety and depression, more likely to experience a sense of lack of control over their health and to have lower self-reported quality of life. Asthma is under-diagnosed, and under-treated, in the elderly, further exacerbating these negative consequences. The review concludes, among other things, that there is a need to better understand the development and impact of asthma in the elderly, to increase community awareness of asthma in the elderly, to improve both 'medical management' and 'self-management' in this population and to develop more effective tools for diagnosis and treatment of asthma in the elderly. The paper concludes with key recommendations for future research and practice in this area.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.