A person suffering from breathing problems or a persistent cough goes to the doctor. By these symptoms, the doctor declares that patient has asthma. It’s a common scenario! After the diagnosis, the patient is put on long-term medication that only can ease symptoms or stop future flare-ups. But new studies show that asthma misdiagnosis is alarmingly frequent.
Many of these patients don’t have asthma at all. Actually, asthma misdiagnosis appears in over 33 percent of patients diagnosed with asthma.
And the medications the patients are prescribed don’t do them any good. Most of these people with asthma misdiagnosis take needless drugs for years.
Researchers at the University of Ottawa examined 613 people diagnosed with asthma in the past five years.
The patients were selected randomly from 10 Canadian cities. Over four visits, researchers re-evaluated the patients to see if they really had asthma. Using serial bronchial challenge tests, peak flow meters and spirometers, they measured how fast and how much air was inhaled and exhaled from the patients’ lungs.
All of these devices are the gold standard for asthma testing.(1)
Scientists found from 613 examined patients, 203 did not have asthma.
Asthma Misdiagnosis Is Rampant
How could such misdiagnosis occur?
Doctors often hurry in an effort to see as many patients as possible and don’t have enough time to do proper testing. Instead, by merely observing the symptoms, they assume it is asthma and prescribe a drug. So, blame on the “drive-thru” health care.
Professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Shawn D. Aaron is the lead author of this study. He warns that a wheeze or a cough is not enough for doctors to know if you have asthma. Therefore, the first thing they need to do if they suspect asthma is to order a spirometry test.
Dr. Aaron says that doctors wouldn’t diagnose a broken bone without ordering an X-ray, or diabetes without checking blood sugar levels. Spirometry tests can definitively diagnose asthma, but for some reason, many doctors are not ordering them.
Many of the patients diagnosed with asthma actually had another respiratory condition, such as a smoker’s cough or cold and some of them even suffered from serious cardiorespiratory illnesses, allergies or heartburn.
After identifying people who had asthma misdiagnosis, Dr. Aaron and his team took the study a step further. They gradually reduced the medication of the patients and finally took them off their asthma medications. Most of them were actually put on steroid-based drugs.
Scientists continued following the patients after being taken off the drugs, for 15 months. During the follow-up, from 203 patients 181 had no breathing difficulties. (2)
Serious Side Effects of Asthma Medication
Many asthma patients are inhaling low-dose steroids. While they usually don’t have serious side effects, they can cause oral yeast infections.(3)
Steroids taken in form of injections or pills can have major side effects. They can cause weight gain, bone loss, behavior and mood changes, or weakness.(4)
Get the Spirometry Test
If you have asthma diagnosis, first of all, make sure to get a spirometry test. It is painless and noninvasive. By breathing into a machine it measures the airflow in and out of your lungs. Your health insurance covers it and it takes just a few minutes.
This may save you from taking drugs and your health too.
If you’re worried about side effects of prescription drugs, read our special report, Safe Natural Drug Alternatives For Most Prescribed Drugs. There is a good chance someone you love is endangering her or his life.