Results of a recently completed study indicate that breathing troubles that plague some adults who suffer from obesity can be mistakenly diagnosed as asthma. Obese men and women have the four times as much chance to be misdiagnosed with asthma than persons with normal weight. Objective testing of lung function would later rule asthma out as cause of breathing troubles. It is still uncertain what are the reasons for initial failure to establish the correct diagnose. Role of obesity in causes for misleading diagnosis remains unclear.
In more detail, a study was carried out among nearly five hundred people initially diagnosed with asthma in order to determine if diagnosis was adequate. Of these, about one half were overweight, while others had body weight within normal limits. Lung function testing confirmed the initial diagnosis in seventy percent of research participants. As for people who have been misdiagnosed with asthma, it turned out that over twenty percent of obese people required immediate treatment of respiratory problems in the last twelve months, while less than ten percent of normal-weight patients did the same. This discovery was symptomatic, as it turned out that obese people who required treatment in the last couple of years were far more likely to be misdiagnosed with asthma than if they had been treated long time ago.
After thorough comparison and analysis of other factors, it turned out that obese people have four times as much chance to be misdiagnosed.
Reasons of misdiagnosing
Still, some experts believe that reason for misdiagnosing asthma is actually quite plain. Standard lung function test, spirometry (measurement of lung capacity by means of spirometer), is nowadays rarely used to diagnose asthma. This is a mistake, since asthma should be diagnosed based both on lung function testing such as spirometry and on observed symptoms.
Obese people are also known to suffer from breathing problems that present asthma-like symptoms, such as shortness of breath and tightness of chest. Underlying causes of these problems are usually heart disease, acid reflux and poor fitness levels, and not asthma.
Getting second opinion is first thing to do
It is advised that people who are diagnosed with asthma in an emergency room or in a walk-in clinic make sure to follow up with their regular physician. Additional evaluation or testing by the primary care physician could be able to discover underlying causes of experienced breathing difficulties if it turns out that it is not asthma.