Blog post: Get the real story on asthma diagnosis

Dr Andy Whittamore looks at the facts behind recent headlines on asthma misdiagnosis

18th January 2017

You may have seen the news story today about a study that suggests that a third of people with asthma may not actually have the condition.

If you have asthma, reading a headline like this is obviously worrying, confusing and raises lots of questions in your mind.

It is vital, despite all your possible concerns, that you do not stop taking your asthma medicines.

People in the study had thorough tests before they stopped their medicines and were monitored for several months afterwards for signs of asthma symptoms. Some of them had an acute flare-up of their asthma during this time, meaning that stopping their medicines might not have been the right decision for them.

Asthma symptoms can change

Asthma is a complicated condition that is different for everybody: it has many different causes, can be triggered by different things and varies over time. Symptoms can change over your life, or even on a weekly or daily basis.

Because of this complexity, there isn't one single straightforward test for asthma. There are many different types of tests that your GP, asthma nurse or asthma specialist will use to help work out whether you have asthma and build a picture of your symptoms. So, if you have one negative test, of all the various ones that are currently available, or you don't have symptoms, it doesn't mean you don't have asthma. Asthma's not that simple.

And this complexity is precisely why Asthma UK's funding more research to better understand the condition – this will help us develop new and more accurate tests to help healthcare professionals prove, or disprove, an asthma diagnosis.

Dr Andy Whittamore is Asthma UK’s Clinical Lead and in-house GP.