If You Have This Common Condition, You May Have Been Misdiagnosed

A new study has found that thousands of patients might have incorrect diagnoses.

Having faith in your doctor is an essential part of staying healthy and getting the care you need, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't ever be skeptical. After all, doctors are only human and they may not get it right every time. But while misdiagnoses are possible for any health concern, they're more likely for some conditions than for others. In fact, a new study has found that thousands of patients told they have one one common condition may have actually been misdiagnosed. Keep reading to find out if you need a second opinion, and for more reasons to see a different doctor, If You've Gone to a Doctor for This, Get a Second Opinion, Study Says.

You may have been misdiagnosed if you've been told you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Doctor using stethoscope listening to senior patient breathing at her house - using face mask
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A study published Jan. 29 in npj Digital Medicine sought to discover cases at risk of misdiagnosis or over-diagnosis with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The researchers identified 284,154 patients in Denmark diagnosed with COPD from 1994 to 2015. Out of these patients, the researchers found 9,597 cases that did not follow a typical COPD trajectory, labeling them as "most dissimilar," meaning they were likely cases that were either misdiagnosed or over-diagnosed. According to the researchers, these patients were typically diagnosed at a younger age and less likely to have been given a lung function test. And for more things to discuss with your primary care physician, If You Take This Common Medication, Talk to a Doctor Before Your Vaccine.

The CDC says that 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD.

A senior man is indoors in a hospital room. He is watching his female doctor using a tablet computer. She is explaining a medication schedule to him.
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COPD is the umbrella term for a group of lung diseases that can cause breathing-related problems, and it includes common diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 16 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. One of the major issues with diagnosing this disease, however, is that there is no "single test for COPD," according to Healthline. Instead, doctors diagnose this disease based on a combination of symptoms, a physical exam, and the results of one of several possible diagnostic tests. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Misdiagnosing COPD may cause doctors to miss other underlying conditions.

doctor checking the xray of pneumonia at hospital
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The researchers found 2,185 potentially misdiagnosed COPD patients who died less than a year after their diagnosis. According to the study, doctors failing to issue a lung function test can cause COPD misdiagnoses while missing the actual problem, as the symptoms of lung cancer, heart failure, and asthma are all very similar to the symptoms of COPD. In fact, researchers found that more than 10 percent of potentially misdiagnosed COPD patients were later diagnosed with lung cancer, but died significantly faster that other lung cancer patients. A misdiagnosis with COPD can cause "a delay in the lung cancer diagnosis leading to higher lung cancer mortality," the study stated. And for more health concerns, If You've Had This Common Illness, You're More Likely to Die From COVID.

And over-diagnosing COPD can also cause problems.

Young woman sitting on bed and feeling sick, taking medication in hand with a glass of water
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The researchers found 2,386 potentially over-diagnosed COPD patients, who survived longer than five and a half years after their diagnosis. According to the researchers, over-diagnosis is when a diagnosis is correct but it does more harm than good, as the condition would not have caused symptoms or problems in the patient. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says that many people with COPD have mild forms of the disease, where "little therapy is needed." As the researchers explain, over-diagnosis can lead to unnecessary or even harmful medical treatments that cause adverse side effects and also add extra costs to the healthcare system. And for more health issues you should address, If You're Taking This OTC Medicine More Than Twice a Week, See a Doctor.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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