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Feature Article

Asthma management. Part 1: assessing severity and optimising lung function

Christine Jenkins

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Abstract

Although Australia has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, asthma mortality has fallen significantly in the past decade. Well managed asthma shifts the burden of medical care from the hospital to general practice. This two-part article discusses the optimal management of asthma in the general practice setting.

Key Points

  • The six-step asthma management plan remains the blueprint for outlining the principles of asthma management in Australia.
  • The assessment of asthma severity should include both current symptoms and past history; assessment of asthma control includes only an assessment of the current situation – symptoms and lung function.
  • Spirometry is the gold standard for the diagnosis and assessment of airway obstruction.
  • The diagnosis of asthma may be missed if peak flow readings are used as this method is highly effort dependent and not sensitive to mild degrees of airflow limitation.
  • When achievable, allergen avoidance has particular benefit to patients with asthma in that it reduces the risk of an ongoing stimulus to airway inflammation.

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