Study: A third of asthma patients do not have asthma at all

Study: A third of asthma patients do not have asthma at all

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Study examines the lungs of people with asthma
Apparently, many adult asthma patients don't really suffer from asthma. Researchers have now found that around one in three adults diagnosed with asthma may not have chronic lung disorder at all. For this reason, many sufferers could easily live without asthma medication.

Scientists from the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute found that many adults diagnosed with asthma do not have the condition at all. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "JAMA".

One in three people who are believed to be ill may not have asthma
Many people around the world suffer from asthma. Are you one of those patients with chronic lung disorder? Then you may not have asthma at all and you may have been misdiagnosed. One in three adults may be subject to such a misdiagnosis, the Canadian experts speculate.

Doctors wean asthma patients from their medication
Researchers conducted so-called lung function tests for 613 adults in their study. In all subjects, asthma had been identified within the past five years, the authors explain. When the participants took medication for asthma, the doctors gradually weaned them on four visits to the clinic. The doctors wanted to find out how well their lungs function without such treatment.

181 subjects obtained good results in lung tests for asthma patients
The researchers later found that asthma was unlikely in 203 participants (33 percent). Even after a year of follow-up, 181 subjects still did lung tests too well to be diagnosed with asthma, the scientists say. "We were able to completely wean these patients from asthma medication," the doctors report.

The diagnosis was often incorrect or the disease was in remission
Follow-up examinations over the course of the next year also went well, despite the lack of medication, explains study author Shawn Aaron from the University of Ottawa. Some of these patients clearly had an incorrect diagnosis. These subjects had other health problems. Some participants suffered from asthma, but the disease was already in remission, the expert added.

Symptoms of asthma
Asthma can be difficult to diagnose because not all patients have the same triggers or symptoms. These include, for example, difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing and wheezing, explain the doctors. Some chronic asthma patients have had experience with periods of remission and recurrence.

Subjects had to perform breath tests
For the current study, the researchers monitored all patients for symptoms through breathing tests at home. For example, they wanted to find out how quickly the air is exhaled from the lungs. Another test was also carried out. For this inhaled patient, a drug that narrows the bronchi. This simulates the conditions that cause asthma. This enables the researchers to determine how well the respiratory tract is responding.

Doctors conduct a follow-up examination on subjects
Each patient also carried out a so-called spirometry test. This test measured lung function. He found out how much air people inhale and how much they exhale. Participants who were ultimately ruled out from a diagnosis of current asthma had to be clinically monitored and monitored with repeated challenging bronchial tests over a period of one year.

Heart disease, pulmonary hypertension, COPD and GERD instead of asthma were found
Among the people originally diagnosed with asthma, there were twelve people (two percent of the participants) with a serious illness other than asthma. These include, for example, heart diseases and pulmonary hypertension, the scientists explain. Other subjects were diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or so-called anxiety-related hyperventilation instead of asthma.

Airflow limitation less likely after misdiagnosis
In the misdiagnosed subjects, airflow limitation was less likely than found in the original tests, compared to participants who confirmed the original asthma diagnosis, the scientists explain.

Existing asthma should be confirmed by objective lung tests
If asthma could be excluded in the patients, 90 percent did not need any medication even after one year. The study confirms the need for patients with diagnosed asthma to confirm the disease by re-examining it with objective lung tests (especially spirometry), the experts say. In this way, unnecessary lifelong therapy can be avoided.

Nobody should take medication unnecessarily
The main potential harm from a misdiagnosis of asthma is the lack of treatment for the actual disease of the patient, the doctors explain. In other patients, it is not recognized that established asthma is already in remission. This then leads to an unnecessary intake of medication. The negative effects of asthma medication are minimal, but nobody should take medication unnecessarily, the authors explain. (as)

Author and source information

Video: Asthma: Treatment Airway Diseases. Lecturio (August 2022).