Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes breathing difficulties and affects all ages. Allergens, air pollution, cold air, and infections such as the flu and pneumonia are common triggers. If the condition is not diagnosed early or not kept under control, it can become life-threatening. In 2020, GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that the UK may have 13 million undiagnosed asthma patients.
According to GlobalData’s 2020 report Asthma: Epidemiology Forecast to 2029 (GDHCER257-20), the UK has over 9 million lifetime-diagnosed prevalent cases of asthma in 2020. In the latest report published by the National Health Service (NHS) Health Survey for England (HSE) in 2019, study findings suggest that less than half of cases are diagnosed by a physician in the UK. The survey interviewed 10,250 adults and children and showed that 29% of survey respondents reported asthma symptoms, while only 17% were clinically diagnosed with the condition. Taking into consideration the findings from the HSE, GlobalData epidemiologists estimated that there are potentially 13 million undiagnosed asthma patients in the UK (Figure 1).
The testing limitations of the condition in primary care services likely result in a high number of undiagnosed patients. NHS uses three main tests for asthma diagnosis: peak flow, spirometry, and FeNo (fractional exhaled nitric oxide). However, the majority of primary care services do not have the facilities nor trained staff to conduct spirometry or FeNo tests. Although the peak flow test is commonly used, it can cause over, under or misdiagnosis. Spirometry testing can take up to four standard doctor’s appointments to conduct. Lastly, the current coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic interrupted the use of primary and secondary care services. As a result, GlobalData epidemiologists expect a further decline in the diagnosis rate for 2020 into 2021. However, these trends may be temporary, with diagnosis rates likely returning to previous levels as the pandemic comes to an end. Ultimately, GlobalData epidemiologists recommended allocating more resources towards training staff and increasing testing facilities to help improve patient outcomes.
Figure 1: Lifetime Prevalent Cases of Asthma in the UK, Men and Women, All Ages, N, 2019 to 2029.