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Asthma Overdiagnosed in Those Overweight

November 7, 2006

Overweight people run a risk of being misdiagnosed as having asthma while actually other problems cause wheezing and shortness of breath, HealthDay News reported Wednesday, October 25.

This conclusion was announced at the American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting in Salt Lake City. About 60% of overweight patients with asthma diagnosis in reality didn't suffer this lung disease.

According to Dr. Chirag Mehta, researcher at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in New Jersey and also study author, obesity and overweight can cause the same symptoms as asthma usually does. For instance, being out of shape provokes shortness of breath and acid reflux disease stimulates wheezing. Dr. Mehta drew attention to the necessity of careful examination of people with increased BMI in order to determine other diagnoses.(BMI - Body Mass Index or height to weight ratio).

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimations over 15 million U. S. citizens suffer from asthma which causes about 1.5 million emergency-room visits per year. It is 75% prevalent in comparison with 1980.

Former investigations have linked obesity and asthma, the fact is not so evident today. Mehta said it was rather hard to determine causes and effects, as patients with asthma diagnosis may be prescribed oral steroids, which can be a ground for weight gain, which in its term only worsen asthma.

Other study has shown that bariatric surgery of morbidly obese patients alleviates their asthma symptoms. These findings compelled the researchers to prejudice original asthma diagnosis.

During the medical trial, held under the direction of Mehta, researchers recruited 20 overweight people with asthma diagnoses, whose lung-function tests showed no disease. Almost 60% of the group exceeded the obesity criteria.

The bronchoprovocation tests with usage of methacholine have revealed that only 39% of the investigated individuals had positive results. It actually meant that almost two thirds of the group had been misdiagnosed with asthma. Mehta commented that reflux and deconditioning are common for those overweight or obese.

Southfield Providence Hospital chief of pulmonology, Dr. Bohdan Pichurko, pointed out simple mechanics as a reason of misunderstanding. The lungs are stiffed by excessive body mass which prevents them from expanding fully. Dr. Pichurko compared obesity with a buckshot bag pressing patient's chest. He also blamed untreated heart diseases and high blood pressure to cause wheezing.

According to Pichurko this study shows the importance of thorough examination of obese and overweight patients for the purpose of correct diagnosing. He recommended overweight people with asthma symptoms to consult an asthma specialist, preferentially at specialized breathing labs. Unfortunately such labs are inaccessible in most parts of the country.

However there is something you can do by yourself. Consult your doctor and check your peak flow readings 3 or 4 times per day. If their variation doesn't excess 10%, you may have no asthma. But if, on the contrary, the readings differ greatly (50-60 persent), then you evidently do suffer from asthma.

Obviously the right diagnosis is of great importance. Besides unnecessary expenditure and no help from incorrect medications, they can cause objectionable side effects.


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