Feature

Health scare of the week: Misdiagnosing asthma

A new Canadian study of more than 500 patients diagnosed with asthma found that a third didn’t actually have the illness.

What if your asthma isn’t asthma at all? A new Canadian study of more than 500 patients diagnosed with asthma found that a third didn’t actually have the illness. In more than half of the cases, researchers found, doctors failed to perform the tests needed to make a proper diagnosis, especially a lung-function test called spirometry. A doctor who attempts to diagnose asthma without that test, the study says, is akin to “a physician who attempted to manage hypertension without measuring blood pressure.” Many of the patients diagnosed with asthma were found to be suffering instead from such serious health problems as chronic pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure. It’s important to remember, says Dr. Norman Edelman, that “all that wheezes is not asthma.”

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