This study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, represents the longest and largest look at patients with persistent asthma ever published, according to the Brigham and Women's Hospital researchers who conducted it.
The research looked at 684 patients with asthma from ages 5 to 12 and followed patients all the way until at least age 23. Eleven percent of these patients showed impaired lung function that met the criteria for COPD by early adulthood. Around 75 percent were showing signs of early lung function decline or reduced lung function growth.
COPD is a progressive disease that makes it difficult to breathe. Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for COPD.
The researchers behind the current study said children with asthma should be taught about risks for developing COPD and how to avoid factors that can worsen lung function, such as smoking.
The National Institutes of Health, Parker B. Francis Foundation and others funded this research. Conflict of interest disclosures were not available at the time of publication.