Within the realm of asthma diagnosis, there is a somewhat larger margin of error than many people actually realize. Today, it is estimated that doctors tend to misdiagnose asthma in patients at an average rate of about thirty percent of cases. This could mean potentially harmful side-effects from being wrongly diagnosed and treated for asthma, since some of the medications and treatments for asthma can cause negative reactions in patients, and these side effect incidences are especially troubling in cases where the patient never should have been on their asthma treatment medications in the first place.
Misdiagnosis of asthma in patients can often be caused by certain other medical conditions whose symptoms sometimes tend to resemble those of asthma, causing the doctor to make a mistake in their diagnostic conclusion about a patient’s asthma status. For the purpose of further educating all people, especially asthma sufferers (and potential asthma misdiagnosis victims), some of the medical conditions resembling asthma, as well as the proper ways to precisely diagnose asthma and consequences of being wrongly diagnosed with this condition will now be introduced and discussed briefly.
Frequency of Asthma Misdiagnosis
As stated earlier, the frequency of asthma misdiagnosis in the United States is estimated to be around 30%. That means roughly 1 in every 3 persons undergoing treatment for asthma were wrongly diagnosed. This figure becomes staggering when applied to the population of the USA; it is abundantly clear that asthma misdiagnosis is a significant issue, and one that requires an adequate response from the medical establishment and patients alike.
Medical Conditions Resembling Asthma
One of the primary causes for asthma misdiagnosis tends to be a medical professional’s mistaken conclusions about the condition causing asthma-like symptoms in a patient. When medical conditions that create symptoms similar to asthma arise in an individual, they are inadvertently put at risk for being falsely diagnosed with having asthma. There is a relatively broad range of medical conditions which can create asthma-like symptoms, some of these symptoms being wheezing, a general shortness of breath, and an overall difficulty with breathing during and after exercise or intense exertion. Some of these asthma-like symptom inducing medical conditions include:
- Respiratory Infection – a respiratory infection can be caused by any number of factors, some of the more common ones being heavy smoking, excessive drinking, open sores or wounds in the respiratory tissues which can become infected, among other typical causes. These respiratory infections tend to be confused with asthma fairly often since they can usually cause the kind of wheezing and breathing difficulty which is textbook in the context of asthma sufferers.
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) – COPD is another condition which involves the respiratory system, and symptoms of this condition include excessive coughing, having trouble breathing even when sitting still, and other breathing difficulties which tend to be the culprit behind misdiagnoses of asthma in all different kinds of patients.
- Anxiety – With regard to anxiety being a potential cause of asthma misdiagnosis, we must again look at the way that chronic anxiety sufferers often experience some degree of breakdown or compromise in their overall biological functioning. The kind of static stress that is typically associated with sufferers of anxiety can, over time, compromise the smooth functioning of the lungs. This can lead to the sort of wheezing and relative breathing difficulty that sometimes will lead to an asthma misdiagnosis.
- Congestive Heart Failure – Often referred to by medical professionals as “cardiac asthma”, congestive heart failure is one of the conditions most frequently misdiagnosed as asthma. This condition, like virtually every other one that generates asthma-like symptoms, can induce a kind of breathing difficulty and compromised lung function that some medical professionals will end up diagnosing as being a case of asthma.
Potential Consequences of Being Wrongly Diagnosed With Asthma
With such a relatively high percentage of patients being incorrectly diagnosed with having asthma, society and the international medical establishment is forced to ask certain questions about the possible consequences associated with a wrongful asthma diagnosis. For one thing, the overall trend would suggest that large amounts of money and resources are going into the production, distribution, and consumption of asthma treatment medications by patients who do not actually need them. This indicates a large waste of resources and the time of professionals, and it makes abundantly clear the need to become more precise when it comes to diagnosing asthma so that medical resources can be conserved and more effectively allocated.
Additionally, some of the steroid medications that are used to treat asthma can cause long-term damage to patients who take them over extended periods of time. This becomes a rather devastating human toll when the number of wrongfully diagnosed asthma patients being adversely affected and harmed by asthma treatments is considered.
How To Accurately Diagnose Asthma
Diagnosing asthma can be very complicated and problematic due to a variety of reasons. They range from inconsistent symptoms, regional pollen, changes in weather and conditions that present with symptoms similar to asthma such as viral infections. Asthma is also much more difficult to correctly diagnose in young children and the elderly. Before any medical doctor comes to the conclusion of asthma, they should first administer a procedure called spirometry to analyze your lung function. Spirometry can confirm the presence of asthma in an individual by measuring the amount of air they can exhale. In the following video Dr. Roger Goldstein gives a helpful description of what spirometry is and how the test is performed.
Peak flow testing may also be administered with a peak flow meter to achieve a diagnosis, though it is a less accurate and reliable option than spirometry. The main use of peak flow testing should be for a patient to keep track of their lung function themselves once they have been correctly diagnosed as asthmatic, since peak flow tests can be conducted at home by the patient. Now you no longer have to wonder if you were incorrectly diagnosed with asthma.