Asthma is unlikely to be a single disease, so we should abolish the term altogether, states an Editorial in this week’s issue of The Lancet.
The word asthma originates from a Greek word that means “to breathe with mouth open or to pant.” Asthma includes a range of different symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. The underlying cause of asthma is inflammation of the airways. But it is not known what triggers this inflammation and why some people develop asthma and others do not. People with asthma can have a range of different triggers, symptoms, and responses to treatment, and the general consensus now emerging is that asthma is unlikely to be a single disease entity.
The Lancet states: “So why wait? Rather than confusing scientists, doctors, and patients even further, is it not time to step out of the straightjacket of a seemingly unifying name that has outlived its usefulness? The conclusion should surely be that it is best to abolish the term asthma altogether.”
Revision date: July 4, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD