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What is severe asthma?

People with severe asthma have trouble with frequent asthma symptoms or flare-ups even when taking the highest level of recommended treatment, or needing the highest level of recommended treatment continuously to control their asthma. They may also have experienced severe attacks despite taking preventative treatment. 

Severe asthma is a term used by doctors to mean that your asthma symptoms are severe, frequent or you experience frequent asthma flare-ups, despite taking high dose inhaled combination preventer medication regularly and correctly, or needing frequent or even continuous oral corticosteroid (steroid) medication. For this diagnosis to be clear it's important that the diagnosis of asthma is confirmed by lung function testing and chest imaging, and other conditions that can make asthma worse have been treated. 

‘Severe asthma’ is sometimes referred to as:

  • severe refractory asthma OR
  • treatment-resistant asthma

This means asthma does not respond as well as in most people to common inhaled preventer medications.

  • How is severe asthma different from other types of asthma?
  • How common is severe asthma?
  • Who gets severe asthma?
  • Why does severe asthma occur?
  • What are signs and symptoms of severe asthma?


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