Asthma is usually chronic, although it occasionally goes into long periods of remission. Long-term outlook generally depends on severity:
- In mild-to-moderate cases, asthma can improve over time, and many adults even become symptom free.
- Even in some severe cases, adults may experience improvement depending on the degree of obstruction in the lungs and the timeliness and effectiveness of treatment.
- In about 10% of severe persistent cases, changes in the structure of the walls of the airways lead to progressive and irreversible problems in lung function, even in aggressively treated patients.
Lung function declines faster than average in people with asthma, particularly in those who smoke and in those with excessive mucus production (an indicator of poor treatment control).
Death from asthma is a relatively uncommon event, and most asthma deaths are preventable. It is very rare for a person who is receiving proper treatment to die of asthma. However, even when it is not life threatening, asthma can be debilitating and frightening. Asthma that is not properly controlled can interfere with school and work, as well as with daily activities.
Review Date: 05/03/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.