Asthma: The Magnitude of the Problem

Last Editorial Review: 4/5/2002

Asthma is a disease of chronic inflammation of the airways (the tubes bringing air to the lungs). The inflammation makes breathing difficult. How asthma affects a person fluctuates with a person's various environmental and medical conditions. Asthma can be life-threatening. It is not contagious. Symptoms can start at any age.

Twenty percent of the U.S. population has allergies or asthma.

Asthma is responsible for:

  • Restricted days - over 100 million days annually
  • Huge costs - total annual costs of $6.2 billion
  • Deaths - 5,000 asthma-related deaths in the U.S. each year

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) started in 1989 with the goal of raising awareness about the seriousness of asthma as a chronic disease, as well as improving recognition of symptoms of asthma by doctors and the public. The NAEPP is run by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Statistics about asthma, including those above, can be obtained from the NAEPP.

Between 12 and 15 million people in the U.S. have asthma. One 1998 estimate from the Centers for Disease Control, was even higher at 17 million. In 1998, asthma cost the U.S. $11.3 billion.

For more, please see the Asthma article of

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