NEW ORLEANS – Kyle I. Happel, MD, said at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians.
“Asthma is a disease whose symptoms are caused by variable airflow obstruction. It varies throughout the day, usually, and certainly by the week or by the month. I want you to think about the variability of a patient’s disease symptoms in forming your index of suspicion for this disease,” urged, of the section of pulmonary, critical care, and allergy/immunology at Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans.
These phenomena occur often. In a Canadian multicenter study of more than 700 patients with a history of physician-diagnosed asthma within the past 5 years, current asthma was ruled out in fully 33% of them on the basis of no deterioration of asthma symptoms, no evidence of reversible airway obstruction, and no bronchial hyperresponsiveness after all asthma drugs were tapered off ().
Wheezing is the most specific symptom of asthma, although it is not, in fact, terribly specific. In descending order, the next most specific symptoms are breathlessness, chest tightness, and cough.
The top seven diseases that mimic asthma symptoms are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rhinosinusitis, heart failure with preserved or reduced ejection fraction, gastroesophageal reflux disease, angina, anxiety, and vocal cord dysfunction syndrome.
Strike two for an asthma diagnosis is a patient’s report that albuterol doesn’t improve the symptoms. That definitely raises questions about the diagnosis.