ICVS collaborates in first study on the prevalence of asthma in Portugal: more than 570 thousand people have the disease

More than 570,000 adults live with asthma in Portugal, a disease that has a prevalence of 7.1%. Of these thousands of people, almost seven in 10 (68%) do not have their disease under control, show data from “EPI-ASTHMA – Prevalence and characterization of people with asthma, according to the severity of the disease, in Portugal”, a study developed in collaboration by ICVS, CINTESIS of the University of Porto and AstraZeneca Portugal.

The data also show that 1/3 of the asthmatic patients identified in the study did not have their diagnosis recorded in the clinical file, which reinforces the need for greater accuracy in recording clinical information. Of these patients, 70% had no treatment prescribed in the last 12 months. Furthermore, 23% of adults living with asthma in Portugal did not have a previous diagnosis, demonstrating the need for measures to improve access to diagnosis and monitoring of this disease.

Jaime Correia de Sousa (ICVS researcher) and João Fonseca, main researchers of the study, confirm that there are several known avoidable risk factors that can justify these data, “including poor indoor air quality (e.g. mold , humidity, exposure to tobacco smoke or fireplaces) and outdoors (e.g. air pollution)”, and that “there are some areas of the country with worse air quality that have an increased risk of asthma”.

Regarding the fact that 68% of those with asthma do not have their disease under control, the researchers explain that there are several factors behind that: “The main thing has to do with respiratory health literacy. Unfortunately, asthma is still seen by many people as an episodic disease that will only need treatment when there are symptoms and we know that this is not the case and that, in a considerable percentage of situations, it will require continued medication, at least for most of the year. For this reason, many people with asthma only resort to relief medication when they have symptoms and do not use anti-inflammatory control medication on an ongoing basis.

As for the remaining factors, the most frequent are related, from the point of view of the person with asthma, to insufficient adherence to medication, medication failures, errors in the technique of using inhalers, which, for some people, is not easy and costs associated with medication; from health services point of view, there is insufficient monitoring by health teams in frequency and periodicity of consultations with doctors or nurses and less attention from professionals in relation to monitoring programs for respiratory diseases, mainly due to work overload and the multiplicity of tasks and other diseases and health problems under surveillance.”

For the experts, “it is essential to continue investing in and improving existing surveillance and control programs for respiratory diseases, improving access to proximity exams, particularly spirometry, developing specific clinical recording systems for respiratory diseases, increase asthma training for all professionals and promote respiratory health literacy among the population”.

The data from “EPI-ASTHMA – Prevalence and characterization of people with asthma, according to the severity of the disease, in Portugal” was presented at an event that took place in the auditorium of the Instituto Nacional de Saúde Doutor Ricardo Jorge (INSA), on the 30th Of april.