Is asthma being overdiagnosed?
Why Is It A Problem?
The issues through overdiagnosis can be multiple. The study authors said "overdiagnosis of childhood asthma is common in primary care, leading to unnecessary treatment, disease burden and impact on quality of life". Finances in healthcare are wasted supplying treatment and the child in question is connected to the condition without further check-ups.
Overdiagnosis is a problem in the UK, not only because of the NHS resources used on incorrect medication (it's estimated the UK spends £1 billion a year on asthma care), but because individuals may have a different health problem that remains unaddressed.
It's also possible that as a result of an asthma diagnosis can result in anxious individuals, including parents of 'asthmatic' children that may react by reducing exercise and activity levels. In turn, this can lead to weight management issues and an unhealthy lifestyle.
So What Are The Symptoms of Asthma?
Despite being fairly common, asthma still kills. In fact, an average of three people a day die from asthma in the UK. The main symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- A tight chest
Asthma can be triggered by exercise, environmental causes such as hay fever or fumes, moving from a warm to a chilly situation, cold and flu infections, and stress.
What Else Could It Be?
If asthma is the incorrect diagnosis then what could it be?
Some alternatives are sinusitis, myocardial ischemia, gastroesophageal reflux, congestive heart failure, upper airflow obstruction, aspiration, pulmonary aspergillosis and viruses. These conditions have similar symptoms to asthma and all require different treatments.
Will The Research Change Anything?
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is currently reviewing its guidance on asthma. There's no date on the outcome, but it's likely to include advice on the most effective ways to diagnose asthma.
Think You've Been Misdiagnosed?
It's worth remembering that there's no standard test for asthma. In the UK, diagnosis depends on a range of symptoms.
If you think you've been wrongly diagnosed, it is advised to not stop taking your medication, but to instead book an appointment with your doctor or nurse to review your plans and have a health check-up.
Asthma's severity can come and go with your general health, the seasons and age, but that doesn't mean you don't have asthma. It's important to keep your medication nearby.
Asthma.org.uk say that every ten seconds someone in the UK has an asthma attack and without treatment the symptoms are likely to be serious, so perhaps it's not surprising that the condition is overdiagnosed. If the outcome of failing to provide someone with asthma medication can be fatal isn't it best to prescribe something just to be sure?