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1.  Evaluation of the global lung function initiative 2012 reference values for spirometry in a Swedish population sample 
The Global Lung Function Initiative 2012 (GLI) reference values are currently endorsed by several respiratory societies but evaluations of applicability for adults resident in European countries are lacking. The aim of this study was to evaluate if the GLI reference values are appropriate for an adult Caucasian Swedish population.
During 2008–2013, clinical examinations including spirometry were performed on general population samples in northern Sweden, in which 501 healthy Caucasian non-smokers were identified. Predicted GLI reference values and Z-scores were calculated for each healthy non-smoking subject and the distributions and mean values for FEV1, FVC and the FEV1/FVC ratio were examined. The prevalence of airway obstruction among these healthy non-smokers was calculated based on the Lower Limit of normal (LLN) criterion (lower fifth percentile) for the FEV1/FVC ratio. Thus, by definition, a prevalence of 5% was expected.
The Z-scores for FEV1, FVC and FEV1/FVC were reasonably, although not perfectly, normally distributed, but not centred on zero. Both predicted FEV1 and, in particular, FVC were lower compared to the observed values in the sample. The deviations were greater among women compared to men. The prevalence of airway obstruction based on the LLN criterion for the FEV1/FVC ratio was 9.4% among women and 2.7% among men.
The use of the GLI reference values may produce biased prevalence estimates of airway obstruction in Sweden, especially among women. These results demonstrate the importance of validating the GLI reference values in different countries.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12890-015-0022-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4417328  PMID: 25887050
Lung function; Spirometry; Reference values; Z-score; Lower Limit of Normal
2.  Frequent cough in unsatisfactory controlled asthma – results from the population-based West Sweden Asthma Study 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):79.
Asthma is a complex disease presenting with variable symptoms which are sometimes hard to control. The purpose of the study was to describe the prevalence of asthma symptoms, use of asthma medications and allergic sensitization in subjects with asthma. We also related those indices to the level of asthma control, lung function and in particular, cough.
An extensive questionnaire was sent to randomly selected adults from the West Sweden region. Clinical examinations and interview were performed in a subset. Of the participants, 744 were defined as having an ongoing asthma - reported ever having asthma or physician diagnosed asthma and one of the following – use of asthma medications, recurrent wheeze or attacks of shortness of breath with or without wheeze in the last 12 months. A respiratory disease-free control group of 847 subjects was also described.
According to GINA guidelines, 40.6% of the asthmatics had partly controlled and 17.8% had uncontrolled asthma. Asthmatic subjects reported significantly more symptoms in the last 12 months than the control group – wheezing (79.4 vs 9.2%), shortness of breath (36.1 vs 2.5%), wheezing with shortness of breath (58.7 vs 1.3%). Important complaints were morning cough (42.5 vs 15.5%), cough with sputum production (36.1 vs 6.8%) and longstanding cough (32.5 vs 11.1%), which bothered two thirds of the uncontrolled and one third of partly controlled subjects. Asthma medications were used by 87.5% of the asthmatics, although around 30% of them who had insufficiently controlled disease used only short-acting beta-agonists. Asthmatics also had lower lung function, reacted to lower doses of methacholine that the controls and 13.6% of them had a FEV1/FVC ratio below 0.7. Allergic rhinitis was reported by 73.8% of the asthmatics and they were more frequently sensitized to several common allergens.
Approximately 60% of asthmatics from this population-based study had insufficiently controlled asthma and persistent complaints, despite a high use of asthma medications. These self-reported symptoms were supported by clinical examination data. Increased cough frequency is an indicator of a more severe and difficult to control disease and should be considered when asthma is characterized.
PMCID: PMC4262384  PMID: 25135646
Cough prevalence; Level of asthma control; Lung function; Population-based study
3.  Sensitization to airborne allergens among adults and its impact on allergic symptoms: a population survey in northern Vietnam 
The knowledge about allergic sensitization and its relationship with clinical symptoms and diseases among adults in South-East Asia is poor. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence and pattern of allergic sensitization and the association with asthma and allergic rhinitis in adults in urban and rural Vietnam.
Among 5,782 responders to a questionnaire survey in northern Vietnam, a random sample was invited to a clinical follow-up and 684 (46%) participated. The methods included a structured interview using a modified GA2LEN study questionnaire on symptoms and possible determinants for diseases. Skin prick test (SPT) with ten common airborne indoor and outdoor allergens, lung function test, and methacholine test was performed among subjects ≤60 years of age.
In total, one third of subjects had a positive SPT reaction to at least one allergen, 36.9% of men and 31.0% of women (n.s.). The most common sensitizer was the storage mite B. tropicalis (men 27.7%; women 18.7%) followed by house dust mite D. pteronyssinus (men 16.5%; women 10.6%), and D. farinae (men 15.3%; women 6.3%), and cockroach (men 16.5%; women 10.2%). Sensitization to all major allergens were significantly more common among men and among subjects ≤45 years compared with women and subjects >45 years, respectively. The prevalence of sensitization to animals, pollen and molds were low. The majority of cockroach-sensitized subjects were also sensitized to mites. Sensitization to any allergen and all major allergens were significantly associated with rhinitis, but not with asthma. However, bronchial hyper-reactivity was significantly associated with increasing number of positive SPTs (p = 0.047).
Among adults in northern Vietnam sensitization to mite and cockroach most common in both rural and urban areas. The dominant sensitizer was the storage mite B. tropicalis, which should be included in future studies and also in clinical practice, owing to its association with clinical symptoms. As in the Western world allergic sensitization was associated with rhinitis and bronchial hyper-reactivity. The lack of association with asthma in South-East Asia needs to be studied further.
PMCID: PMC3923743  PMID: 24512828
Allergic sensitization; Asthma; Allergic rhinitis; Storage mite; Vietnam
4.  Prevalence trends in respiratory symptoms and asthma in relation to smoking - two cross-sectional studies ten years apart among adults in northern Sweden 
Smoking is considered to be the single most important preventable risk factor for respiratory symptoms. Estimating prevalence of respiratory symptoms is important since they most often precede a diagnosis of an obstructive airway disease, which places a major burden on the society. The aim of this study was to estimate prevalence trends of respiratory symptoms and asthma among Swedish adults, in relation to smoking habits. A further aim was to estimate the proportion of respiratory symptom and asthma prevalence attributable to smoking.
Data from two large-scale cross-sectional surveys among adults performed in northern Sweden in 1996 and 2006 were analysed. Identical methods and the same questionnaire were used in both surveys. The association between smoking, respiratory symptoms and asthma was analysed with multiple logistic regression analyses. Changes in prevalence of respiratory symptoms and asthma from 1996 to 2006 were expressed as odds ratios. Additionally, the population attributable risks of smoking were estimated.
The prevalence of most respiratory symptoms decreased significantly from 1996 to 2006. Longstanding cough decreased from 12.4 to 10.1%, sputum production from 19.0 to 15.0%, chronic productive cough from 7.3 to 6.2%, and recurrent wheeze from 13.4 to 12.0%. Any wheeze and asthmatic wheeze remained unchanged. This parallels to a decrease in smoking from 27.4 to 19.1%. In contrast, physician-diagnosed asthma increased from 9.4 to 11.6%. The patterns were similar after correction for confounders. All respiratory symptoms were highly associated with smoking, and the proportion of respiratory symptoms in the population attributed to smoking (PAR) ranged from 9.8 to 25.5%. In 2006, PAR of smoking was highest for recurrent wheeze (20.6%).
In conclusion, we found that respiratory symptoms, in particular symptoms common in bronchitis, decreased among adults in northern Sweden, parallel to a decrease in smoking from 1996 to 2006. In contrast, the prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma increased during the same time-period. Up to one fourth of the respiratory symptom prevalence in the population was attributable to smoking.
PMCID: PMC3929247  PMID: 24383710
Respiratory symptoms; Asthma; Prevalence; Smoking; Attributable risk; Trends
5.  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) During the Two Last Years of Life – A Retrospective Study of Decedents 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84110.
Little is known about the management of patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) during the last years of life. The aim of the study was to describe how management of COPD is performed in Sweden during the last two years of life.
From the nationwide Cause of Death register all individuals with COPD as the underlying cause of death during two years were identified in one sparsely and one densely populated area of Sweden. Data were collected from medical records using a pre-defined protocol, especially developed for this purpose.
Of 822 individuals with COPD as underlying cause of death, medical records from 729 were available. The COPD diagnosis was based on lung function measurements in approximately half of the patients and median age at COPD diagnosis was 74 years (range 34-95). Women died at younger age, median 78 years (range 52-96) than did men (80 years (51-99)). The median survival time from diagnosis to death was 6 years in men and women in both areas. Among women and men 8.3% and 4.3% were never smokers, respectively. The structure of COPD management differed between the two areas, with utilization of physiotherapists, dieticians and working therapists being more used in the northern area, likely because of differences in accessibility to care institutions.
In Sweden COPD is mostly diagnosed late in life and often not verified by lung function measurements. Opposite to the general population, women with COPD die at a lower age than men.
PMCID: PMC3868592  PMID: 24367631
6.  The function of medication beliefs as mediators between personality traits and adherence behavior in people with asthma 
There is evidence that both personality traits and personal beliefs about medications affect adherence behavior. However, limited research exists on how personality and beliefs about asthma medication interact in influencing adherence behavior in people with asthma. To extend our knowledge in this area of adherence research, we aimed to determine the mediating effects of beliefs about asthma medication between personality traits and adherence behavior.
Asthmatics (n=516) selected from a population-based study called West Sweden Asthma Study completed the Neuroticism, Extraversion and Openness to Experience Five-Factor Inventory, the Medication Adherence Report Scale, and the Beliefs about Medicines Questionnaire. Data were analyzed using confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling.
Three of the five investigated personality traits – agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism – were associated with both concerns about asthma medication and adherence behavior. Concerns functioned as a partial mediator for the influencing effects of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism on adherence behavior.
The findings suggest that personality traits could be used to identify individuals with asthma who need support with their adherence behavior. Additionally, targeting concerns about asthma medication in asthmatics with low levels of agreeableness or conscientiousness or high levels of neuroticism could have a favorable effect on their adherence behavior.
PMCID: PMC3808229  PMID: 24174872
adherence; individual differences; medication concerns; health behavior
7.  Increase in sensitization to common airborne allergens among adults – two population-based studies 15 years apart 
Studies on time trends of allergic sensitization among adults are rare. The aim of the study was to compare the prevalence of allergic sensitization to common airborne allergens among adults 15 years apart and to identify risk factors for allergic sensitization.
Clinical examinations including skin prick test (SPT) and structured interviews were performed in two random population samples in 1994 and 2009. Furthermore, specific IgE was analyzed in 2009. SPT data were available for 483 subjects in 1994 and for 463 subjects in 2009 in ages 20–60 years. Specific IgE was analyzed in 692 subjects in ages 20–79 years.
Sensitization to cat (16% to 26%, p < 0.001), dog (13% to 25%, p < 0.001), birch (13% to 18%, p = 0.031) and timothy (12% to 21%, p < 0.001), based on SPT, increased significantly from 1994 to 2009. Sensitization to any positive SPT increased from 35% to 39%, p = 0.13.The proportion of having ≥3 positive SPT reactions increased from 40% to 56%, p = 0.002. The sensitization pattern yielded similar results based on specific IgE. Risk factors for allergic sensitization were having a family history of allergy (OR 3.1, 95% CI 2.0-4.8 for any positive SPT; OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.8-4.0 for any elevated IgE) and urban living (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.0-2.7; OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.0-2.4).
The prevalence of allergic sensitization to major airborne allergens as well as multi-sensitization increased significantly between the study years. Young age, a family history of allergy and urban living were significant risk factors for allergic sensitization.
PMCID: PMC3684537  PMID: 23758681
Allergic sensitization; Epidemiology; IgE; Population study; Prevalence; Skin prick test
13.  Higher Risk of Wheeze in Female than Male Smokers. Results from the Swedish GA2LEN Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54137.
Women who smoke have higher risk of lung function impairment, COPD and lung cancer than smoking men. An influence of sex hormones has been demonstrated, but the mechanisms are unclear and the associations often subject to confounding. This was a study of wheeze in relation to smoking and sex with adjustment for important confounders.
In 2008 the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network (GA2LEN) questionnaire was mailed to 45.000 Swedes (age 16–75 years), and 26.851 (60%) participated. “Any wheeze”: any wheeze during the last 12 months. “Asthmatic wheeze”: wheeze with breathlessness apart from colds.
Any wheeze and asthmatic wheeze was reported by 17.3% and 7.1% of women, vs. 15.8% and 6.1% of men (both p<0.001). Although smoking prevalence was similar in both sexes, men had greater cumulative exposure, 16.2 pack-years vs. 12.8 in women (p<0.001). Most other exposures and characteristics associated with wheeze were significantly overrepresented in men. Adjusted for these potential confounders and pack-years, current smoking was a stronger risk factor for any wheeze in women aged <53 years, adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 1.85 (1.56–2.19) vs. 1.60 (1.30–1.96) in men. Cumulative smoke exposure and current smoking each interacted significantly with female sex, aOR 1.02 per pack-year (p<0.01) and aOR 1.28 (p = 0.04) respectively. Female compared to male current smokers also had greater risk of asthmatic wheeze, aOR 1.53 vs. 1.03, interaction aOR 1.52 (p = 0.02). These interactions were not seen in age ≥53 years.
In addition to the increased risk of COPD and lung cancer female, compared to male, smokers are at greater risk of significant wheezing symptoms in younger age. This became clearer after adjustment for important confounders including cumulative smoke exposure. Estrogen has previously been shown to increase the bioactivation of several compounds in tobacco smoke, which may enhance smoke-induced airway inflammation in fertile women.
PMCID: PMC3554721  PMID: 23357876
14.  Galactose-α-1,3-Galactose–Specific IgE Is Associated with Anaphylaxis but Not Asthma 
Rationale: IgE antibodies to the mammalian oligosaccharide galactose-α-1,3-galactose (α-gal) are common in the southeastern United States. These antibodies, which are induced by ectoparasitic ticks, can give rise to positive skin tests or serum assays with cat extract.
Objectives: To evaluate the relationship between IgE antibodies to α-gal and asthma, and compare this with the relationship between asthma and IgE antibodies to Fel d 1 and other protein allergens.
Methods: Patients being investigated for recurrent anaphylaxis, angioedema, or acute urticaria underwent spirometry, exhaled nitric oxide, questionnaires, and serum IgE antibody assays. The results were compared with control subjects and cohorts from the emergency department in Virginia (n = 130), northern Sweden (n = 963), and rural Kenya (n = 131).
Measurements and Main Results: Patients in Virginia with high-titer IgE antibodies to α-gal had normal lung function, low levels of exhaled nitric oxide, and low prevalence of asthma symptoms. Among patients in the emergency department and children in Kenya, there was no association between IgE antibodies to α-gal and asthma (odds ratios, 1.04 and 0.75, respectively). In Sweden, IgE antibodies to cat were closely correlated with IgE antibodies to Fel d 1 (r = 0.83) and to asthma (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: These results provide a model of an ectoparasite-induced specific IgE response that can increase total serum IgE without creating a risk for asthma, and further evidence that the main allergens that are causally related to asthma are those that are inhaled.
PMCID: PMC3326422  PMID: 22281828
α-gal; red meat allergy; ticks; total serum IgE; ectoparasite
15.  Immunophenotyping of Circulating T Helper Cells Argues for Multiple Functions and Plasticity of T Cells In Vivo in Humans - Possible Role in Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e40012.
The immune process driving eosinophilic and non-eosinophilic asthma is likely driven by different subsets of T helper (Th) cells. Recently, in vitro studies and animal studies suggest that Th cell subsets displays plasticity by changing their transcription factor or by expressing multiple transcription factors. Our aim was to determine whether individuals with asthma and elevated circulating eosinophils express signs of different regulatory immune mechanisms compared with asthmatics with low blood eosinophils and non-asthmatic control subjects. In addition, determine the relationship between eosinophilia and circulating Th cell subsets.
Methodology/Principal findings
Participants were selected from a random epidemiological cohort, the West Sweden Asthma Study. Immunophenotypes of fresh peripheral blood cells obtained from stable asthmatics, with and without elevated eosinophilic inflammation (EOS high and EOS low respectively) and control subjects, were determined by flow cytometry. No differences in the number of Th1 (T-bet), Th2 (GATA-3), Th17 (RORγt) or Treg (FOXP3) cells were observed between the groups when analysing each subset separately. However, in all groups, each of the Th subsets showed expression of additional canonical transcription factors T-bet, GATA-3, RORγt and FOXP3. Furthermore, by in vitro stimulation with anti-CD3/anti-CD28 there was a significant increase of single expressing GATA-3+ and co-expressing T-bet+GATA-3+ cells in the EOS high asthmatics in comparison with control subjects. In addition, T-bet−GATA-3+RORγt+FOXP3+ were decreased in comparison to the EOS low asthmatics. Finally, in a group of control subjects we found that the majority of proliferating Th cells (CD4+CD25+Ki67+) expressed three or four transcription factors.
The ability of human Th cells to express several regulatory transcription factors suggests that these cells may display plasticity in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3386921  PMID: 22768198
16.  A Strong Synergism of Low Birth Weight and Prenatal Smoking on Asthma in Schoolchildren 
Pediatrics  2011;127(4):e905-e912.
Prenatal smoke exposure is associated with airway inflammation and asthma in children. It also increases the risk of low birth weight (LBW). LBW is associated with decreased lung function independently of smoking.
To study the independent and joint effects of prenatal smoking and LBW on childhood asthma.
In 1996, all children aged 7 to 8 years in 3 cities in northern Sweden were invited to an International Study of Asthma and Allergy in Childhood questionnaire survey. This study focused on the follow-up of children aged 11 to 12 years, in which 3389 children (96%) participated. A subset of 2121 children underwent skin-prick testing. Self-reported physician-diagnosed asthma has been clinically validated.
Mean birth weight was 3360 g in children exposed to prenatal smoking and 3571 g in nonexposed children (P < .001). The association of prenatal smoking with physician-diagnosed asthma was stronger in LBW children (risk ratio: 8.8 [95% confidence interval: 2.1–38]) than in normal birth weight children (risk ratio: 1.3 [95% confidence interval: 1.0–1.8]). LBW alone was not an independent predictor of asthma. These associations were similar in multivariate analysis, and the interaction term LBW × smoking was highly statistically significant.
There was a strong interaction of LBW and prenatalsmoking on the risk of physician-diagnosed asthma, which has not been demonstrated previously. This was consistently seen with adjustment for known risk factors, including allergic sensitization. Plausibly, airway inflammation from prenatal smoke exposure induces obstructive symptoms more easily in the underdeveloped airways of LBW children.
PMCID: PMC3387890  PMID: 21422092
wheeze; child; prevalence; epidemiology; risk
17.  Up-to-date on mortality in COPD - report from the OLIN COPD study 
The poor recognition and related underdiagnosis of COPD contributes to an underestimation of mortality in subjects with COPD. Data derived from population studies can advance our understanding of the true burden of COPD. The objective of this report was to evaluate the impact of COPD on mortality and its predictors in a cohort of subjects with and without COPD recruited during the twenty first century.
All subjects with COPD (n = 993) defined according to the GOLD spirometric criteria, FEV1/FVC < 0.70, and gender- and age-matched subjects without airway obstruction, non-COPD (n = 993), were identified in a clinical follow-up survey of the Obstructive Lung Disease in Northern Sweden (OLIN) Studies cohorts in 2002-2004. Mortality was observed until the end of year 2007. Baseline data from examination at recruitment were used in the risk factor analyses; age, smoking status, lung function (FEV1 % predicted) and reported heart disease.
The mortality was significantly higher among subjects with COPD, 10.9%, compared to subjects without COPD, 5.8% (p < 0.001). Mortality was associated with higher age, being a current smoker, male gender, and COPD. Replacing COPD with FEV1 % predicted in the multivariate model resulted in the decreasing level of FEV1 being a significant risk factor for death, while heart disease was not a significant risk factor for death in any of the models.
In this cohort COPD and decreased FEV1 were significant risk factors for death when adjusted for age, gender, smoking habits and reported heart disease.
PMCID: PMC3276412  PMID: 22230685
18.  Conventional epidemiology underestimates the incidence of asthma and wheeze-a longitudinal population-based study among teenagers 
Because of shifts in the gender ratio and incidence and remission rates of asthma during the teen ages, the methodology of incidence studies among teenagers is important, i.e. if the time intervals between surveys are too long, the incident cases might not be properly identified. The aim was to study the impact of study design on the incidence rates of asthma and wheeze during the teen ages.
In a study about asthma and allergic diseases within the OLIN studies (Obstructive Lung Disease in northern Sweden), a cohort of school children (n = 3,430) was followed annually by questionnaire from age 8 yrs. In the endpoint survey (age 18 yrs) 2,582 (75% of original responders) participated. Incident cases from age 12-18 yrs were identified by two methods: annual questionnaire reports (AR) and baseline-endpoint surveys only (BE).
The cumulative incidence of asthma and wheeze was significantly higher based on AR compared to BE. Compared to the incidence rates based on all the annual surveys, the calculated average annual rates based on BE were in general lower both among the boys and among the girls. There were no differences between boys and girls in incidence rates of asthma or wheeze during the early teen years. However, from the age of 15 years, the annual incidence rates were significantly or borderline significantly higher among girls than boys. At onset, the additional cases of current asthma identified by AR had significantly less severe asthma than those identified in BE (p < 0.02).
the size of the incidence of asthma and wheeze during the teen ages was influenced by study design. By using the conventional prospective study design with longer follow-up time, the incidence was underestimated.
PMCID: PMC3395824  PMID: 22409857
asthma; adolescents; epidemiology; incidence; study design; wheezing
19.  Allergic rhinitis in northern vietnam: increased risk of urban living according to a large population survey 
Little is known about prevalence and risk factors of allergic rhinitis and chronic nasal symptoms among adults in Vietnam. We aimed to estimate the prevalence, risk factor patterns and co-morbidities of allergic rhinitis and chronic nasal symptoms in one urban and one rural area in northern Vietnam.
A cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted from August 2007 to January 2008 in urban Hoankiem and rural Bavi in Hanoi among adults aged 21-70 years. Of 7008 randomly selected subjects, 91.7% participated in Bavi and 70.3% in Hoankiem.
Allergic rhinitis ever or chronic nasal symptoms were reported by 50.2%. The prevalence of allergic rhinitis ever was considerably higher in Hoankiem compared to Bavi, 29.6% vs 10.0% (p < 0.001). Allergic rhinitis ever and chronic nasal symptoms were both significantly associated with asthma and respiratory symptoms, respectively (p < 0.001). Exposure to gas, dust or fumes at work was significantly associated with allergic rhinitis ever, OR 1.57 (95% CI 1.34 - 1.84), nasal blocking, OR 1.90 (95% CI 1.68 - 2.15) and runny nose, OR 1.32 (95% CI 1.17 - 1.49), while somewhat surprisingly no association with smoking was found. Female sex was a significant risk factor for both nasal blocking and runny nose.
Allergic rhinitis ever was considerably more common in the urban area. Nasal blocking and runny nose was each reported by about one third of the studied sample with no major urban-rural difference. Further, exposure to air pollution at work was significantly associated with allergic rhinitis ever, nasal blocking and runny nose.
PMCID: PMC3339357  PMID: 22410330
Allergic rhinitis; nasal blocking; runny nose/chronic rhinitis; epidemiology; Vietnam
20.  Increased Prevalence of Symptoms of Rhinitis but Not of Asthma between 1990 and 2008 in Swedish Adults: Comparisons of the ECRHS and GA2LEN Surveys 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16082.
The increase in asthma prevalence until 1990 has been well described. Thereafter, time trends are poorly known, due to the low number of high quality studies. The preferred method for studying time trends in prevalence is repeated surveys of similar populations. This study aimed to compare the prevalence of asthma symptoms and their major determinants, rhinitis and smoking, in Swedish young adults in 1990 and 2008.
In 1990 the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS) studied respiratory symptoms, asthma, rhinitis and smoking in a population-based sample (86% participation) in Sweden. In 2008 the same symptom questions were included in the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network (GA2LEN) survey (60% participation). Smoking questions were however differently worded. The regions (Gothenburg, Uppsala, Umeå) and age interval (20–44 years) surveyed both in 1990 (n = 8,982) and 2008 (n = 9,156) were analysed.
The prevalence of any wheeze last 12 months decreased from 20% to 16% (p<0.001), and the prevalence of “asthma-related symptoms” was unchanged at 7%. However, either having asthma attacks or using asthma medications increased from 6% to 8% (p<0.001), and their major risk factor, rhinitis, increased from 22% to 31%. Past and present smoking decreased.
From 1990 to 2008 the prevalence of obstructive airway symptoms common in asthma did not increase in Swedish young adults. This supports the few available international findings suggesting the previous upward trend in asthma has recently reached a plateau. The fact that wheeze did not increase despite the significant increment in rhinitis, may at least in part be due to the decrease in smoking.
PMCID: PMC3040758  PMID: 21379386
21.  Multi-symptom asthma is closely related to nasal blockage, rhinorrhea and symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis-evidence from the West Sweden Asthma Study 
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):163.
We have previously shown that approximately 25% of those with asthma in West Sweden have multiple asthma symptoms, which may describe a group of patients with more severe disease. Furthermore, asthma is associated with several co-morbid diseases, including rhinitis and chronic rhinosinusitis. The aim of this study was to determine whether multi-symptom asthma is related to signs of severe asthma, and to investigate the association between multi-symptom asthma and different symptoms of allergic and chronic rhinosinusitis.
This study analyzed data on asthma symptoms, rhinitis, and chronic rhinosinusitis from the 2008 West Sweden Asthma Study, which is an epidemiologically based study using the OLIN and GA2LEN respiratory and allergy focused questionnaires.
Multi-symptom asthma was present in 2.1% of the general population. Subjects with multi-symptom asthma had more than double the risk of having night-time awakenings caused by asthma compared with those with fewer asthma symptoms (P < 0.001). The prevalence of allergic rhinitis was similar in the fewer- and multi-symptom asthma groups, but nasal blockage and rhinorrhea were significantly increased in those with multi- versus fewer-symptom asthma (odds ratio 2.21; 95% confidence interval 1.64-2.97, versus 1.49; 1.10-2.02, respectively). Having any, or one to four symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis significantly increased the risk of having multi- versus fewer-symptom asthma (P < 0.01).
An epidemiologically identified group of individuals with multiple asthma symptoms harbour to greater extent those with signs of severe asthma. The degree of rhinitis, described by the presence of symptoms of nasal blockage or rhinorrhea, as well as the presence of any or several signs of chronic rhinosinusitis, significantly increases the risk of having multi-symptom asthma.
PMCID: PMC3004848  PMID: 21110834
22.  Major increase in allergic sensitization in school children from 1996 to 2006 in Northern Sweden 
Time trends for allergic sensitization are poorly known.
To compare the trends in prevalence of allergic sensitization and associated risk factors in children.
Two cohorts of children (age 7–8 years) were invited to skin prick testing (SPT) ten years apart, 1996 and 2006. Participation rate was 2148 (88%) and 1700 (90%), respectively. The methods were identical and ten common airborne allergens were used. An expanded ISAAC-questionnaire about symptoms and possible risk factors for allergic conditions was completed by the parents.
The prevalence of any positive SPT increased from 21% in 1996 to 30% in 2006 (p<0.001). The pattern of sensitization remained similar, and sensitization to cat was most common both years, 13% and 19%, respectively. Sensitization to mites and mould were uncommon in both surveys. A family history of allergy was a significant risk factor for a positive SPT both years (OR 1.7). Factors that in 1996 had a protective effect, i.e. rural living and having several siblings, had lost this effect in 2006. The prevalence of most risk factors remained similar, but respiratory infections and smoking among parents decreased significantly. During the same period there was no significant increase in prevalence of current wheeze (11.9% to 12.4%, n.s.) or symptoms of rhinitis or eczema.
The prevalence of allergic sensitization increased significantly from 1996 to 2006, while no increase in clinical symptoms was found. The parallel decrease in parental smoking and respiratory infections indicate a different influence of environmental factors on allergic sensitization and clinical symptoms, respectively.
PMCID: PMC2747664  PMID: 19577282
allergic sensitization; atopic disease; epidemiology; OLIN; school children; skin prick test
23.  West Sweden Asthma Study: Prevalence trends over the last 18 years argues no recent increase in asthma 
Respiratory Research  2009;10(1):94.
Asthma prevalence has increased over the last fifty years, but the more recent changes have not been conclusively determined. Studies in children indicate that a plateau in the prevalence of asthma may have been reached, but this has not yet been confirmed in adults. Epidemiological studies have suggested that the prevalence of asthma in adults is approximately 7-10% in different parts of the western world.
We have now performed a large-scale epidemiological evaluation of the prevalence of asthma and respiratory symptoms in adults between the ages of 16-75 in West Sweden. Thirty thousand randomly chosen individuals were sent a detailed questionnaire focusing on asthma and respiratory symptoms, as well possible risk factors. Sixty-two percent of the contacted individuals responded to the questionnaire. Asthma prevalence, defined as asthma diagnosed by a physician, was 8.3%. Moreover, the prevalence of respiratory symptoms was lower compared to previous studies. The most common respiratory symptom was any wheeze (16.6%) followed by sputum production (13.3%). In comparison with studies performed 18 years ago, the prevalence of asthma has not increased, and the prevalence of most respiratory symptoms has decreased. Therefore, our data argues that the continued increase in asthma prevalence that has been observed over the last half century is over.
PMCID: PMC2772988  PMID: 19821983
24.  Responses of FEV6, FVC, and FET to inhaled bronchodilator in the adult general population 
Respiratory Research  2009;10(1):71.
The assessment of bronchodilator-induced change in forced vital capacity (FVC) is dependent on forced expiratory time (FET) in subjects with airflow limitation. Limited information is available on the concurrent responses of FVC, forced expiratory volume in six seconds (FEV6), and FET in the bronchodilation test among patients with obstructive airways disease or in the general population. The aim of this study was to assess the changes in FEV6, FVC, and FET, and their relationships in a standardized bronchodilation test in the general population.
We studied bronchodilation response in a general adult population sample of 628 individuals (260 men, 368 women) with flow-volume spirometry. The largest FVC, the corresponding FET and the largest FEV6 both at the baseline and after 0.4 mg of inhaled salbutamol were selected for analysis.
After administration of salbutamol FEV6 decreased on average -13.4 (95% CI -22.3 to -4.5) ml or -0.2% (-0.4% to 0.0%) from the baseline. The 95th percentile of change in FEV6 was 169.1 ml and 5.0%. FVC decreased on average -42.8 (-52.4 to -33.3) ml or -1.0% (-1.2% to -0.7%). Concurrently FET changed on average -0.2 (-0.4 to 0.0) seconds or 0.4% (-1.4% to 2.3%). There were four subjects with an increase of FVC over 12% and only one of these was associated with prolonged FET after salbutamol. Changes in FEV6 and FVC were more frequently positive in subjects with reduced FEV1/FVC in baseline spirometry.
In general adult population, both FEV6 and FVC tended to decrease, but FET remained almost unchanged, in the bronchodilation test. However, those subjects with signs of airflow limitation at the baseline showed frequently some increase of FEV6 and FVC in the bronchodilation test without change in FET. We suggest that FEV6 could be used in assessment of bronchodilation response in lieu of FVC removing the need for regulation of FET during bronchodilation testing.
PMCID: PMC2729739  PMID: 19638220
25.  Health-related quality of life is related to COPD disease severity 
The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between health-related quality of life (HRQL) and disease severity using lung function measures.
A survey was performed in subjects with COPD in Sweden. 168 subjects (70 women, mean age 64.3 years) completed the generic HRQL questionnaire, the Short Form 36 (SF-36), the disease-specific HRQL questionnaire; the St George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ), and the utility measure, the EQ-5D. The subjects were divided into four severity groups according to FEV1 per cent of predicted normal using two clinical guidelines: GOLD and BTS. Age, gender, smoking status and socio-economic group were regarded as confounders.
The COPD severity grades affected the SGRQ Total scores, varying from 25 to 53 (GOLD p = 0.0005) and from 25 to 45 (BTS p = 0.0023). The scores for SF-36 Physical were significantly associated with COPD severity (GOLD p = 0.0059, BTS p = 0.032). No significant association were noticed for the SF-36, Mental Component Summary scores and COPD severity. Scores for EQ-5D VAS varied from 73 to 37 (GOLD I-IV p = 0.0001) and from 73 to 50 (BTS 0-III p = 0.0007). The SGRQ Total score was significant between age groups (p = 0.0047). No significant differences in HRQL with regard to gender, smoking status or socio-economic group were noticed.
The results show that HRQL in COPD deteriorates with disease severity and with age. These data show a relationship between HRQL and disease severity obtained by lung function.
PMCID: PMC1215504  PMID: 16153294
Health-related quality of life; COPD; disease severity; epidemiological, Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD); St George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ)

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