Why adults diagnosed with asthma may not actually have it


MANY adults diagnosed with
asthma may not actually have
the disease, a new study from Canada suggests.
Researchers found that about one-third of adults in the study who were previously diagnosed with asthma did not meet the criteria for an asthma diagnosis when they were retested several years later. This group continued to test negative for asthma over multiple retests in the study, and they showed no signs of worsening symptoms when they stopped taking asthma medications.
These findings may mean that these people were originally misdiagnosed, or that their asthma went away on its own, the researchers said. [8 Strange Signs You’re Having an Allergic Reaction]
The results show that, for some adult patients diagnosed with asthma, “reassessing that diagnosis may be warranted,” the researchers wrote in today’s (Jan. 17) issue of the journal JAMA.
The findings also suggest that some people may be taking asthma medications when they don’t need to be, meaning they are unnecessarily paying for a medication, and putting themselves at the risk of possible side effects from the drugs, the researchers said. “Use of asthma medications in these patients presumably provided only risks for medication adverse effects, and cost,” without clear benefit, they wrote in their study.
Asthma is a condition in which people’s airways become inflamed and narrowed, which can lead to coughing, chest tightness, wheezing and trouble breathing, or a combination of these symptoms.
In the study, researchers analyzed information from more than 600 adults in 10 Canadian cities who had been diagnosed with asthma in the past five years. About 45 percent of participants said they were taking daily medications to control their asthma, according to the study, which was led by Dr. Shawn Aaron, a respirologist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and a professor at the University of Ottawa in Ontario.
To see if these patients really did have asthma, participants first underwent a lung function test used to diagnose asthma, called spirometry. This test measures how much air people are able to blow out of their lungs, and how quickly they do this.
If patients tested negative on this first test, they then underwent a second test used to diagnose asthma. During this test, they inhaled a chemical called methacholine, which is a common trigger for asthma.

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