Expert doctors say most asthma cases are misdiagnosed - New York News

Expert doctors say most asthma cases are misdiagnosed or undertreated

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Courtesy: National Jewish Hospital Courtesy: National Jewish Hospital
(WJBK) -

Estimates say approximately 26 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma, but a growing concern now is that many may not actually have it.

Doctors at the nation's leading respiratory hospital say, of the more severe patients who are referred to their experts, nine out of 10 are either misdiagnosed or undertreated.

For all the miles Jack Robb has run over the years, he only recently began struggling to breathe. At times, he says, it was so scary he started to panic.

"Everything just starts moving real slow. You feel like somebody has a hand over your mouth and you just can't, you know, let loose," Robb describes.  

He was diagnosed with asthma, a disease that narrows the airways. His doctor prescribed an inhaler, but within two weeks that wasn't enough.  

"Jack might not even have exercise-induced asthma, or if he does, it wasn't the complete diagnosis," Dr. Tod Olin of the National Jewish Hospital explains.

Dr. Olin is a lung specialist at National Jewish Health in Denver. As the leading respiratory hospital in the nation, thousands of asthma patients are referred here for further testing.

A recent study among those patients found one in four didn't even have asthma, and 70 percent had other conditions that went undiagnosed.   

"While it's logical for a general practitioner to treat a breathing problem in a child as asthma, there are other breathing problems out there and, for the children that are failing therapy, we need to think about those other diagnoses," Olin explains.

Those other diagnoses include things that mimic asthma like allergies, acid reflux and even heart problems. During a certain test doctors used a camera to watch Robb's throat close during exercise, a condition known as vocal cord dysfunction. It's not asthma and it can't be fixed with asthma medicine.   

Experts say if your child is taking medicine for asthma and has symptoms more than two days a week, or if they are ever hospitalized for asthma, you should look into getting another opinion.

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