Does anyone know the difference between brittle, severe and chronic asthma

Hi there,

I was diagnosed with asthma a couple of years back after suffering chronic glandular fever. I had a few bad attacks that left me in hospital but on a whole its been ok until about 4 - 5 weeks ago. I'd been feeling unwell for about a week, went to bed early, woke up following morning, no voice, terrible cough, running temp, to be honest because I didnt have a wheeze assumed it was a cold. Waited a couple of days, was feeling even worse, went to gp, see asthma nurse who told me it was chronic asthma - my peak flow was 200.

2 course of steriods, course of antibiotics along with symbicourt 2 x 4 daily and blue releaver slowly eased but last couple of days feel like I've an iron band around my chest / lungs being tightened and pumps not easing and constantly short of breath - just walking up and down the stairs leaves me struggling. I keep hearing about brittle, severe and chronic asthma but no idea on the difference between them, can anyone advice please?

4 Replies

  • That is a very good question!

    I dont know the answer i am afraid but i get these names thrown at me constantly between my con, resp nurse and GP.

    Hopefully someone with an answer will be along soon as i would too be curious to know.

    I would say you need to go back to GP as we cannot give medical advice but struggling like you are sounds like an a and e job or GP pretty urgently!


  • I have been told i am a chronic brittle severe asthma sufferer in the past please dont quote me but i do belive

    chronice asthma means asthma that is persistant or long lasting asthma

    Brittle asthma means that the asthma can change from being quite well controlled to being poorly in a short space of time.

    severe asthma is asthma that is extremley bad and not at all well controlled.

    I hope this helps

  • Kipo you are slightly wrong with brittle asthma there are 2 types, type 2 one where you are ""well"" inbetween attacks but then have very sudden very severe attacks they usually respond to mega amounts of treatment fairly quickly. It is not unknown for someone to dial 999 for someone having a brittle attack the ambulance men scoop and run with someone having a really bad attack probably giving steriods, adrenalin and nebs on O2 only to find that on arrival at hospital the attack is all but over. Sounds great but these are huge attacks and you can go from chatting to moving no air in a couple of minutes these are the attacks that scare me the most.

    The other type known as type 1 things are a little more grey it is asthma that despite tested complience and throwing everything possible at it you feel like you are always having an asthma attack, with fluctuations like in the early morning, cold air, etc

    Mostly type 1 is now mostly known as difficult to control asthma. Basically it depends who you see, I was told I by the RBH had difficult to control asthma with brittle elements because I can go off so fast sometimes but my asthma symptoms are always there unless I am on day 9 of IV am aminophylline when I feel I could run a marathon :)

    You could look here but remember lots of people are being told they have brittle asthma and they don't, they just have not found the right cocktail of drugs to give them control. Brittle asthma is diagnosed by a chest consultant as rule one who specialises in asthma and only after trying and testing many different combinations of medications as well as testing for compliance. Sadly now it is a lable being incorrectly applied by GP's and A&E doctors, people are then bunging brittle asthma into google and getting quite a scare.


  • Thank you for your replies, it seems that everyone is being told different thing. I've been to my gp today only to be told I've an upper respiratory viral infection which is affecting my asthma and that I need to put up with the cough and shortage of breath until the viral infection has cleared and then I need to have the swine flu, seasonal flu and pnemonia jabs - what a nightmare! Thankfully the info on the websites has worried me too much just feel very frustrated about being off work yet again and still not being able to control the asthma.

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