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Health: Asthma Misdiagnosis Is Common

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- One in 12 people have been diagnosed with a breathing disorder and the numbers are growing every year.  But experts say many people are being misdiagnosed, and in some cases, the drugs they're prescribed are doing more harm than good.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl explains.

More than 25 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma.  But experts say not all of those people actually have it.

"Patients are often misdiagnosed with asthma, much more often than anyone typically realized," said Dr. Sally Wenzel, a Pulmonologist.  She says studies have shown 25 to 30 percent of asthma patients are misdiagnosed.

When Deb Bushe came to Dr. Wenzel for help with her asthma she learned she didn't have it.

"I was very surprised when I was told I didn't have asthma," said Deb.  For 15 years Deb says she wasted hundreds of dollars on medications.  She quit using her inhaler.

"When I stopped I got much better," said Deb.

According to the CDC, asthma costs the United States 50 billion dollars a year in medical expenses.  According to experts, asthma is often wrongly used to describe a wide variety of breathing disorders.

"It is so easy to just prescribe an inhaler and just say call me if you have any problems," said Dr. Wenzel.

Chronic coughing and shortness of breath that seem like asthma can actually be indication of heart failure or dysfunction of the vocal chords, a problem Deb has now been diagnosed with.

"Not all that wheezes is asthma.  If you have breathing problems and you have been diagnosed with asthma but you have never had a breathing test get with your doctor and get a breathing test," said Dr. Wenzel.

Doctors say breathing problems can also be caused by certain medications.

Asthma Information-

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