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Asthma: A common diagnosis that just may be wrong

Asthma is a terribly difficult disease to manage, and statistics indicate that it's on the rise, particularly among children and adults of color. However, what if many of those people who are diagnosed and treated for asthma actually have a different disease instead?

A recent study is causing a stir among the international medical community because it suggests that as many as one out of every three adult asthmatics are misdiagnosed.

To confirm their theory, researchers weaned around a third of the study's patients off their asthma medications. The vast majority of those able to wean off the steroids and inhalers had essentially normal lung function tests a full year later -- indicating that they weren't asthmatic.

While it's possible that some of the patients were in remission, it's likely that most were never correctly diagnosed in the first place. Researchers further determined that some of the patients misdiagnosed with asthma had other serious diseases that had gone untreated due to the misdiagnosis. These conditions included pulmonary hypertension, heart disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, which can lead to some forms of cancer when it remains unchecked.

In addition to the fact that those patients with serious conditions had their real medical needs unmet, the study indicates that many others are simply taking medication that they don't need to treat a condition that they don't have.

While some asthma medications, like inhalers, have minimal side effects, it's also common to treat asthma with oral steroids. Steroids can be hard on the human body. Among other things, steroids can cause people to gain massive amounts of weight, which can lead to diabetes, and develop cataracts or high blood pressure.

The study also indicated that many of the misdiagnoses could have been prevented with proper testing. Primary care doctors often rush to diagnosis and put their patients on asthma drugs instead of sending them to a pulmonologist for spirometry testing, which would properly confirm a diagnosis of asthma.

If you've been misdiagnosed with asthma and put on needless medications that caused you serious complications or had another condition worsen as a result of the misdiagnosis, talk to an attorney about your right to compensation.

Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, "Asthma Statistics," accessed July 20, 2017

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