General Health Wednesday August 26, 2015

Has Your Asthma Been Misdiagnosed?

Your asthma symptoms have gone and you miss them as much as a tube strike. You may not be alone in this phenomenon, because the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) claim that 1/3 of diagnosed adults do not have asthma and 1.2 million folk are getting the wrong treatment.

What Do You Mean 'It's Not Asthma'?

Asthma changes it's mind more frequently than George Osborne. The description 'it's a variable condition' doesn't begin to cover asthma. It can change yearly, by the week or by the hour. You might feel great and think your asthma is gone but don't throw that medicine out just yet, it might come back.

On the medical side of the fence, it's difficult to diagnose asthma because there's no 'gold standard' test to prove it. Your GP will diagnose asthma based on symptoms and experiences. Because asthma is dangerous and kills 3 people a day in the UK, you can't blame doctors for handing out the asthma medicine, just in case. Surely it's better to be safe than sorry.

What Could It Be, Then?

If you don't have asthma, what might be the problem? Here are some of the asthma-mimickers.

  • An infection of the respiratory tract
  • A long lasting viral infection
  • Panic attacks, anxiety disorders
  • Sinusitis
  • Heart disease - myocardial ischemia, which is inadequate blood flow to the heart tissue muscles
  • Gastroesophagal reflux disease - stomach acid flows into the throat causing heartburn. Heartburn can cause asthma symptoms
  • Lung disease brought about by smoking
  • Upper airflow obstruction
  • Pulmonary aspergillosis, a fungal infection of lung tissues

It's also possible that you have grown out of the condition, or more accurately, as you've grown up your symptoms have lessened or changed. Fewer symptoms or different symptoms still means you have asthma though.

What To Do

Firstly, do not stop taking your asthma medication. An asthma attack can be very serious, so you must stick religiously to treatment unless a health professional tells you otherwise. I'm not joking. I'll tell your mum.

If you have no symptoms of asthma consider whether this is because your asthma treatment is working well. Consider the time of year too. You may be allergic to pollen, which causes asthma, in which case you won't get symptoms in the dead of winter, or perhaps you've moved out and are no longer allergic to Tiddles. If you have moved you may no longer be reacting to a certain trigger, but that doesn't mean asthma won't catch you out at some point.

If you have symptoms but think it's something other than asthma, see your GP. Either way, it's a good opportunity to book in your annual review. This review is important, so don't keep moving the appointment or ignoring it altogether. Asthma can hospitalise you, so make sure you're still taking it seriously.

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