A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), has concluded that 33% of adults diagnosed with asthma don’t actually have the illness, or it is presently inactive.
For the Canadian-based study, scientists examined 613 adults who had been diagnosed with asthma within the last five years.
After a series of breathing tests and X-rays to determine whether or not the patients still had the disease, one third of them were found to objectively not have asthma.
Doctors involved in the research state that they may have had asthma at the time of diagnosis and it went away on its own, or they never had asthma to begin with.
They also found that many doctors who diagnosed the asthma originally did not order secondary tests to ensure that they were making an accurate diagnosis.
Instead, they simply decided the patient had asthma based on their own observations and made recommendations based on that alone.
Dr. Shawn Aaron, a respiratory specialist at Ottawa Hospital at lead researcher on the study, stated he thought it was “bizarre” that so many people seemed to be diagnosed with a disease without tests.
35% of the patients who were misdiagnosed with asthma were still taking medication they did not need.
As a side effect of the study, they were able to stop taking the medications entirely and continue to live full, productive, asthma free lives.
During the research, those who had been misdiagnosed with asthma were tested to find the true underlying cause of their symptoms.
The majority of them originally had seasonal allergies, acid reflux or breathing problems due to obesity.
A very small percentage of this group had more serious conditions that had led to their symptoms, such as ischemic heart disease and bronchiectasis.
The asthma-free patients were followed for an additional year to see if symptoms returned, the vast majority never experienced a relapse despite being off of their medication.
“We need to educate physicians and the public to get the diagnosis right in the first place. Patients who have difficulty breathing should ask their doctor to order a breathing test (spirometry) to determine if they might have asthma or even Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Similarly, if patients think they may have been misdiagnosed with asthma or that they no longer have asthma, they should ask their doctor for a spirometry test. Asthma can be deadly, so patients should never go off their medication without speaking to a doctor first.”