Asthma in the elderly is underdiagnosed and undertreated, and there is a paucity of knowledge on the subject. The National Institute on Aging convened this workshop to identify what is known and what gaps in knowledge remain and suggest research directions needed to improve the understanding and care of asthma in the elderly. Asthma presenting at an advanced age often has similar clinical and physiologic consequences as seen with younger patients, but comorbid illnesses and the psychosocial effects of aging might affect the diagnosis, clinical presentation, and care of asthma in this population. At least 2 phenotypes exist among elderly patients with asthma; those with longstanding asthma have more severe airflow limitation and less complete reversibility than those with late-onset asthma. Many challenges exist in the recognition and treatment of asthma in the elderly. Furthermore, the pathophysiologic mechanisms of asthma in the elderly are likely to be different from those seen in young asthmatic patients, and these differences might influence the clinical course and outcomes of asthma in this population.
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