Asthma: Why you should not self-diagnose
What you need to know:
- If you think you might be experiencing asthma symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor and get an accurate diagnosis.
- Self-diagnosis could lead to dangerous health consequences.
- Even if you have a history of asthma in your family, there is still a chance of misdiagnosis.
Asthma is one of the most common and widely known respiratory illnesses. As a result, when someone experiences shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other respiratory symptoms, the first guess is usually asthma. The availability of digital information online on symptoms also helps people reaffirm their self-diagnosis. And proceed to use the same online sources to self-medicate.
Sometimes, the self-diagnosis is correct, and you may be fortunate to purchase the right medication. However, this is purely by luck. There is danger in self-diagnosis.
Asthma signs and symptoms are not unique to the illness
Other respiratory illnesses have similar signs and symptoms as asthma. To a layman, respiratory illnesses such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) bronchitis, and emphysema are almost indistinguishable from asthma. Some non-respiratory illnesses such as heart failure, anxiety attacks, and even a simple case of the flu can cause shortness of breath and chest tightness.
It is therefore easy to misdiagnose any of these illnesses and conditions as asthma. The only way to know for sure if you have asthma is through a lung function test administered by a certified physician.
For respiratory illnesses such as COPD, asthma medication such as inhalers may work for the short term. However, they are not ideal for long-term management of the illness because you are not addressing the primary triggers. Studies have also shown that such wrongful medication may harm you in the long term.
Replacing your doctor with online sources is a bad idea
The internet contains a lot of helpful health information. This information can help you to understand your symptoms, helping you to express yourself better to the doctor during the consultation. You can also use the information to check if the reactions you are having to certain medications are normal.
Despite its usefulness, the internet was never meant to substitute the doctor and you can't take the online health information as the gospel truth. Also, what works for one person miles away on another continent may not work for you. A doctor analyses your condition based on your unique medical history and other personal information in order to diagnose you correctly and offer you the right medication.
There are different types of asthma
There are different types of asthma, and each type has its own trigger. Triggers can be either internal or external. Internal triggers are usually related to the body such as exercise, weather changes, and infections while external triggers are mostly environment-based such as dust, smoke, and animal fur. The medications used to treat each type of asthma are also different. For instance, the medication used to treat asthma triggered by exercise is different from the one used for treating asthma triggered by dust.
It is hard for a layperson to identify these details from self-diagnosis, even a doctor may need to observe you for an extended period to get the details correct. A diagnosis from a doctor will help you pinpoint the triggers of your asthma so that you can avoid it and provide you with suitable medication to prevent an attack.
There is danger in self-medicating, even when the diagnosis is correct
Asthma medication is not a one size fits. Just like other illnesses, the doctor takes a lot of variables into consideration before prescribing medication for asthma. Some of the factors that determine the type of medication include:
- The severity of your asthma
- Age of the patient
- Type of asthma triggers that affect you
- Medical history, including other medication you may be taking
The dosage also differs from one patient or situation to another. Sometimes, you may need to take the medication regularly while in other instances, only when you have an attack. Some people also have adverse effects on some medications.
By self-diagnosing, you bypass this essential stage of diagnosis and prescription and may end up taking either the wrong medication or dosage. In severe cases, it could lead to hospitalisation or death.