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Significant Proportion of Asthmatics May Have Been Over-Diagnosed

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 by: Reuben Chow
Tags: asthma, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with asthma? If so, there is actually a good chance that you have been misdiagnosed, according to recent research conducted in Canada. In the past two decades, asthma rates have almost doubled. However, the said study found that asthma may be over-diagnosed by up to 30% among adults in the country.

Over-diagnosis of Asthma

Using accepted clinical diagnostic guidelines, 500 Canadians who had been diagnosed with the condition were re-tested for asthma. These guidelines include the recommendation that doctors test for the disease by measuring lung volume and airway flow using a spirometer.

The study team, comprising researchers from the Ottawa Health Research Institute as well as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), found that 30% of the persons did not seem to have asthma, and two-thirds could stop taking their asthma medications without actually having adverse effects to their health.

"The myth-busting part of this study may be that there are a lot of Canadians who are labeled as asthmatics who believe they have the disease, but they may not have it," said Dr Shawn Aaron, a senior scientist at Ottawa Health Research Institute, head of respiratory medicine at Ottawa Hospital, and leader of the study.

And there are three main problems with this - drugs are costly, patients are unnecessarily subjected to potential adverse effects of the medications, and the underlying disease condition remains undiagnosed and therefore untreated. "This is a serious issue because asthma medications are expensive and they can have side effects. Also, an inappropriate diagnosis of asthma may obscure the true cause of a patient's symptoms," said Dr Aaron.

In North America, about 1 in 20 people have asthma, while about 1 in 10 of obese people have the condition. And the study team found that misdiagnosis is just as common for both categories of people.

Failure to Use a Spirometer in Diagnosis

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, also found that many family doctors seem to diagnose asthma without using a spirometer, but only using patients' reported symptoms. "I don't think it's laziness. I think to some extent the tests are not being done because they are not convenient - they're not located on every street corner," Dr Aaron also said.

"We know in studies done by the Asthma Society of Canada that less than 50 per cent of bona fide asthmatics have ever had any type of spirometry," said its spokesperson Dr Mark Greenwald. In the meantime, the Society has urged doctors to conduct more spirometer tests.


According to Dr Peter Liu, scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, because of the spiraling rates of asthma, "researchers have been examining diagnostic procedures to ensure that asthma is not being over-diagnosed and over-treated".

Now, it is important to note that the findings of this study should not in any way be taken as a mandate for asthma patients to abruptly stop their prescribed medications. However, depending on the manner of their initial diagnosis, some of them may want to consider getting themselves re-tested as a form of confirmation.


Asthma may be over-diagnosed in Canada: study (http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/...)

About the author

Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth. His website, All 4 Natural Health, offers a basic guide on natural health information. It details simple, effective and natural ways, such as the use of nutrition, various herbs, herb remedies, supplements and other natural remedies, to deal with various health conditions as well as to attain good health. His other websites also cover topics such as depression help, omega 3 fatty acids, as well as cancer research and information.

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