Asthma is significantly more common among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) than in the general population, a new study shows. The increased prevalence was especially evident in younger and elderly MS patients, regardless of race or sex.
The study was presented at ACTRIMS 2019, the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum, in a poster presentation by Eddie Hill at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
The poster was titled “Prevalence of Asthma in Multiple Sclerosis: A United States Population-Based Study.”
According to Hill, MS patients often have “comorbid conditions, such as hypertension, depression, anxiety, and other autoimmune disorders (e.g. autoimmune thyroid disease and psoriasis), which adversely impact long-term outcomes.”
Asthma is a chronic disease, characterized by swollen and inflamed airways that cause difficulty breathing, and like MS can diminish a patient’s quality of life. But its prevalence in the MS population is not clear.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve sought to characterize the prevalence of asthma in the MS population in the United States.
The team used electronic health record information covering 56.6 million Americans, available in the IBM Explorys EPM: Explore database (Explorys). This enabled researchers to search and browse information about both asthma and MS diagnoses, and patients’ demographics. The analysis was done taking into consideration age, gender, and race.
In total, researchers examined data from 141,880 patients with both MS and asthma, and compared findings to data from a general population of more than 56 million people (56,416,790).
Results showed that the prevalence of asthma was significantly higher among MS patients, compared with the general population — 16.5% versus 6.7%.
After adjusting results for age and gender, asthma was found to be almost three times more common in MS patients than in the general population.
In fact, its greatest prevalence was found in MS patients either younger than age 30 and older than 80. This pattern held regardless of these patients’ gender or race.
“Asthma is significantly more common in those with MS than in the general population, particularly in the young and elderly, irrespective of gender and race,” the researchers wrote.
Having both MS and asthma “may impact daily functioning, quality of life, and prognosis of patients,” Hill said, emphasizing that the results showed “the need for continued research and comorbidity management as part of comprehensive MS care.”
He also noted that “the co-occurrence of MS and asthma is not unexpected, considering that both diseases have increasing incidence, increasing prevalence, and overlapping risk factors (including genetic factors, tobacco smoke exposure, vitamin D insufficiency, and obesity).”