According to a recent study, one in three individuals who have been diagnosed as asthmatic do not, in fact, suffer from the condition.
Researchers from the University of Ottawa studied 613 individuals who had been diagnosed with asthma in the last five years, and established that one-third did not actually have the condition.
With the assistance of a lung specialist, researchers were able to conclude that 33 per cent of their participants did not have active asthma, and a staggering 90 per cent were able to stop their medication and remain off it for a year.
The study established that almost half of those diagnosed had not undergone airflow tests to ensure a correct diagnosis – something which Dr Shawn Aaron, lead author and respirologist at the Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa, struggles to understand.
"Doctors wouldn’t diagnose diabetes without checking blood sugar levels, or a broken bone without ordering an X-ray. But for some reason, many doctors are not ordering the spirometry tests that can definitely diagnose asthma," he said.
"It wasn’t a surprise to most patients when we told them they didn’t have asthma," he added while the study confirmed that those who had been misdiagnosed actually suffered from allergies or heartburn.
Elaborating on the study's findings, Dr Aaron acknowledged that it was difficult to ascertain which patient was misdiagnosed and which had 'inactive' asthma.
"It’s impossible to say how many of these patients were originally misdiagnosed with asthma, and how many have asthma that is no longer active," he said.
“What we do know is that they were all able to stop taking medication that they didn’t need – medication that is expensive and can have side effects.”
Reflecting on his participants' reaction to the news of their misdiagnosis, Dr Aaron said: "Some knew all along that their puffer wasn’t working, while others were concerned that they might have something more serious."
"Thankfully, the majority of the conditions were mild and easily treated."
The study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.