Several recent reports have presented evidence suggesting that adults with asthma have an accelerated rate of decline in pulmonary function compared with nonasthmatics. However, most of these studies have not taken into account the possible effect of comorbid lung disease in addition to asthma. This study was designed to determine if comorbid respiratory diseases modify or otherwise change the estimates of decline in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). Study subjects were White, non-Mexican, American participants, who were > or = 20 yrs of age at the initial survey and had at least one pulmonary function testing. Respiratory disease status, based on self-reported questionnaires and pulmonary function tests, were assessed during 12 surveys spanning a period of up to 20 yrs. There were 2,926 subjects who met the inclusion criteria, 214 (7.3%) had physician-confirmed asthma, 325 (11.1%) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and 125 (4.3%) both physician-confirmed asthma and COPD. Longitudinal analysis revealed that among those with longstanding asthma, FEV1 values were low but did not decline at a more rapid rate than normal. Likewise, subjects with both asthma and COPD had the lowest levels of FEV1, but also a rate of decline that was not significantly increased. Only those with COPD in the absence of asthma experienced both a low initial FEV1 level and a significantly steeper rate of decline. Based on these findings, the authors conclude that forced expiratory volume in one second does not decline more rapidly in asthmatics or in those with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, compared with nonasthmatics.
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