Assessing health-related quality of life in asthma
Many clinicians now recognize the importance of incorporating an assessment of health-related quality of life (HRQL) into their clinical studies and practices. Conventional clinical measures provide valuable information about the status of the affected organ system but rarely capture the functional impairments (physical, emotional and social) that are important to patients in their everyday lives. To obtain a complete picture of a patient's health status, both the conventional clinical indices and the patient's HRQL must be measured. Both adults and children with asthma are distressed by symptoms, such as shortness of breath, cough and chest tightness, and they are limited in their day-to-day activities, such as sports, employment or school work and participation in activities with friends. In addition, both adults and children with asthma are concerned about having asthma, fearful of not having their medications when they need them and frightened of having an asthma attack. They become very frustrated, and children in particular often feel different and isolated from their friends. Disease-specific HRQL questionnaires have been developed and validated for both adults and children with asthma. This paper provides a review of these questionnaires and identifies their strengths and weaknesses. The questionnaires chosen for review have good measurement properties and validity and can be used in both clinical trials and clinical practice to assess the impact of asthma on a patient's life. Because one of the aims of treatment is to ensure that patients benefit from treatment, an essential component of clinical assessment should be evaluation of HRQL.