Millions Diagnosed With Asthma May Not Have It

Doctors at National Jewish Health say - of the more severe patients who are referred to their experts - nine out of ten are either misdiagnosed or under-treated.



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Video Transcript

For all the miles Jack has run over the years, it was only recently that he began to struggle 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.

Jack was diagnosed with asthma brought on by his workouts and his doctor prescribed an inhaler but within two weeks even that wasn't enough. Jack might not even have exercise induced asthma, or if he does, it wasn't the complete diagnosis and that's much more common than you might think. Dr. Todd 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 but a recent study among those patients found one in four didn't even have asthma and seventy percent had other conditions that went undiagnosed.

While it's 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, including things that mimic asthma like allergies, acid reflux, and even heart problems.

During a sophisticated tests like this, doctors used a camera to watch Jack's throat during exercise and diagnosed him with vocal cord dysfunction. It's not asthma and can't be fixed with asthma medicine - I personally find that speech therapists are the mainstay of therapy; however sports psychologists are hugely important.

Dr. Olin says if you have a child with asthma who continues to struggle even with medicine you may want to rethink the diagnosis to get them on a more appropriate path to good health.

At National Jewish Health in Denver, this is Clark Powell reporting.


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