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Asthma May Be More Severe in Obese Individuals

Last Updated: June 03, 2010.

Obese individuals with asthma are more likely to experience decreased lung function and additional comorbidities compared to their normal-weight counterparts, and they are also more likely to be misdiagnosed with asthma when making urgent visits for respiratory symptoms, according to a study in the June issue of Chest.

THURSDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- Obese individuals with asthma are more likely to experience decreased lung function and additional comorbidities compared to their normal-weight counterparts, and they are also more likely to be misdiagnosed with asthma when making urgent visits for respiratory symptoms, according to a study in the June issue of Chest.

Smita Pakhale, M.D., of the Ottawa Hospital in Canada, and colleagues randomly selected patients with physician-diagnosed asthma from eight Canadian cities to compare patient characteristics and severity of disease in obese and normal-weight patients, and to assess characteristics associated with the misdiagnosis of asthma.

The researchers performed complete assessments in 242 obese and 254 normal-weight individuals who reported physician-diagnosed asthma. Obese individuals with asthma were more likely to be of male gender, have a history of hypertension and gastroesophageal reflux disease, as well as have lower lung function, compared to their normal-weight counterparts. Individuals more likely to have experienced misdiagnoses of asthma included older individuals, men, and those with higher lung function. Although obesity did not independently predict misdiagnosis, the odds ratio for having received a misdiagnosis of asthma for obese individuals compared with normal-weight individuals was 4.08 for those who had made urgent visits in the past year.

"Misdiagnosis of asthma occurs in up to 30 percent of patients, and hence health care providers need to order appropriate objective lung function testing in order to avoid falsely labeling patients who are both obese and non-obese as having asthma," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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