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Severe Persistent Asthma - Asthma Classification

The Most Severe Type of Asthma

By Carol Sorgen

Updated July 30, 2008

(LifeWire) - People who suffer from severe persistent asthma usually experience asthma symptoms throughout the day on most days and have frequent symptoms at night as well. These symptoms tend to limit one's physical activity.

How Asthma Is Classified as Severe Persistent

According to the National Guidelines for managing asthma, severity of asthma is classified as severe persistent according to the following factors:

  • Frequency of symptoms (throughout the day)
  • Frequency of nighttime awakenings with asthma symptoms (often daily)
  • Use of a quick-relief inhaler (several time per day)
  • How much asthma interferes with daily activities (extremely limited)
  • Peak flow readings (less than 60% of personal best)
  • Whether asthma flares require use or oral steroids (2 or more times a year)

Treating Severe Persistent Asthma

Patients with severe persistent asthma are generally treated with a combination of asthma medications, including long-term control medicines (inhaled corticosteroids) that reduce inflammation of the airways to prevent asthma symptoms and asthma attacks, long-acting bronchodilators and a quick-relief medicine (short-acting beta agonist or bronchodilator). This additional medication is used (as needed) to relieve acute symptoms by relaxing tightened muscles around the airways. Severe persistent asthma may additionally be treated with anti-inflammatory medicines known as “leukotriene modifiers." These are taken in pill form and are used in combination with the other medications.

People with asthma may find that their severity of asthma fluctuates over the years. That's the reason why the stepwise approach to treating asthma was developed. As severity fluctuates, so does medication and treatment, with the ultimate goal being to keep asthma under control.

Read more about the other types of asthma and their corresponding treatments.

Related Articles:


The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Task Force. "Fact Sheet: Treating Asthma." The Allergy Report. AAAAI.org American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. 12 Dec. 2007 <http://www.aaaai.org/patients/resources/fact_sheets/treating_asthma.pdf>.

"Anti-Inflammatories: Leukotriene Modifiers." Health.USNews.com 12 Dec. 2006. U.S. News & World Report. 12 Dec. 2007. <http://health.usnews.com/usnews/health/allergy/asthma/asthma.treat.meds.inf lammleuk.htm>.

"Asthma: Diagnosis." AllergyChannel.net 21 Nov. 2007. HealthCommunities.com, Inc. 12 Dec. 2007 <http://www.allergychannel.net/asthma/diagnosis.shtml>.

"How Is Asthma Diagnosed?" May 2006. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. 12 Dec. 2007 <http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Asthma/Asthma_Diagnosis.html>.

Peters, Stephen, Jennifer McAllister, and Rodolfo Pascual. "Treatment of Moderate Persistent Asthma in Adolescents and Adults." Patients.UpToDate.com 18 Sept. 2007. UpToDate Patient Information. 12 Dec. 2007 <http://patients.uptodate.com/topic.asp?file=asthma/13610>.

LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Carol Sorgen is a freelance writer in Baltimore, MD, who writes frequently on health and wellness issues for such publications as WebMD, Today's Diet & Nutrition, The Washington Post, and the Baltimore Sun.

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