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Nearly 1 in 3 Asthma Cases May Be Misdiagnosed
Date:11/17/2008

only be done under a doctor's supervision.

Based on these tests, the diagnosis of asthma was excluded in 28.7 percent of the non-obese and 31.8 percent of the obese.

After a six-month follow-up period, Aaron said that only 8 percent had symptoms significant enough to warrant a health-care visit.

Aaron said that some of the misdiagnosed cases could result from bad viral infections, the symptoms of which can last for several months. And the main reason people are misdiagnosed is because doctors don't always perform a key lung function test called spirometry.

In the same issue of the journal, editorial authors Drs. Matthew Stanbrook and Alan Kaplan pointed out that trying to manage asthma without doing lung function testing was akin to trying to manage high blood pressure without taking blood pressure readings or high cholesterol without measuring cholesterol levels in the blood.

"You need to have some objective measure. You can't diagnose asthma based on patient symptoms alone," added Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, chief of allergy and immunology at St. John Hospital in Detroit. She said the issue of misdiagnosis is of concern in the United States, just as it is in Canada.

Appleyard agreed that viral infections can be mistaken for asthma, but said that other serious problems can also be mistaken for asthma, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure.

Both Aaron and Appleyard said they hope these findings don't cause doctors to stop diagnosing asthma, because Appleyard said asthma is still underdiagnosed in some cases. But they suggest that more doctors should include spirometry in their practice or refer their patients to doctors who do perform spirometry to confirm the asthma diagnosis.

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