Is It Asthma?

A third of asthmatics may have been wrongly diagnosed!

What is asthma, are we diagnosing it correctly, and are the drugs prescribed needed?

“Doctors are using observations and not proper tests, study warns. ‘Sufferers’ had allergies or heartburn”. Sarah Knapton, Science Editor.

One third of people with asthma have been wrongly diagnosed, or their condition is no longer active, a study has suggested. Researchers selected more than 700 adults at random who had been diagnosed with asthma in the last five years and checked them again. They found thirty-three percent of people did not appear to have the condition, and nine in ten of these were able to stop their medication completely. Most had minor conditions such as allergies or heartburn, and twenty-eight percent had nothing wrong with them at all.

“It’s impossible to say how many of these patients were originally misdiagnosed with asthma, and how many have asthma that is no longer active,” said the lead author of the study, Prof Shawn Aaron, senior scientist and respirologist at the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa, Canada. “What we do know is that they were all able to stop taking medication that they didn’t need – medication that is expensive and can have side effects.”

Around one in 12 adults in Britain, some 4.3 million people, have asthma, with the study suggesting 1.4 million of them do not have an active condition.

A similar study carried out in The Netherlands last year also suggested that more than half of children are misdiagnosed with asthma.

The new study found that doctors often did not order the tests needed to confirm an asthma diagnosis, and in nearly half of cases based their diagnosis solely on the patient’s symptoms and their own observations.

To further support this finding, research done a decade ago in New Zealand suggested that up to forty percent of those diagnosed with asthma had been wrongly diagnosed, and should not be on the medication prescribed. (Middlemore & Green Hospitals – March 25th 2007) 

In fact there is a more significant question and that is “What is asthma?” This question was posed in the Lancet by a concerned doctor, and further demonstrates there is no consensus to the answer. (Vol. 368, No. 9537, 26/8/06)

In the UK, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence is drawing up new guidelines advising doctors to use more clinical tests to back up their judgement and avoid the danger of wrongly…

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