Misdiagnosis: How asthma misdiagnoses can impact patients

Lung diseases and disorders are hard to diagnose because of their similarities with other illnesses. Shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea, for instance, can be signs of asthma or other illnesses.

Getting the right diagnosis is the key to a solid treatment plan. Here's information on a commonly misdiagnosed disease and what it could mean for you.

What lung disorder is often misdiagnosed in adults?

Interestingly, it's a common childhood disease, asthma. Asthma is a lifelong, chronic illness, but many people go into remission as adults.

A Canadian study showed that up to one in three people currently diagnosed with asthma may not actually have the disease. Some have other lung diseases, while others are completely misdiagnosed and have no asthma or lung disease whatsoever.

Why is asthma so difficult to diagnose?

It's hard to diagnose because of the varied symptoms. Not all patients have the same triggers, meaning that different items may cause an attack to begin. For instance, someone with allergic asthma may have an attack when exposed to cats or dogs, while exercise-induced asthma only really occurs when a person runs or begins to exercise significantly.

The interesting thing about misdiagnosis is how it can hide more significant illnesses like heart disease or pulmonary hypertension, both of which can cause shortness of breath, chest pain and other symptoms of asthma.

During the study, it was shown that two percent of the participants actually had medical conditions that needed other forms of treatment. Some had the above-mentioned heart disease or hypertension, while others had gastroesophageal reflux disease, anxiety-related hyperventilation or other disorders. In these patients, 90 percent were able to stop using asthma medications safely for the following year.

What's the harm in not appropriately diagnosing asthma?

While asthma is portrayed as a minor illness in the media, the reality is that it's a medical condition that can lead to death. An attack without medication or an attack that does not respond to medication can lead to a trip to the ER and potentially lead to death.

One of the most harmful things about a misdiagnosis is the potential that the real disease causing symptoms isn't being treated. Whether it's heart disease or something else, the reality is that patients need to receive the accurate treatment for their conditions.

If you've been misdiagnosed in the past or think you have a misdiagnosis now, you need to seek further testing to determine your lung function and to rule out other possible illnesses. You have a right to seek more than one opinion from various doctors, and you should do so to make sure you get the most accurate diagnosis possible. With a good diagnosis, it's possible to treat almost any illness to make you more comfortable.

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