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Diseases » COPD » Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis of COPD

Misdiagnosis of COPD

A diagnosis of COPD may be delayed or missed because the symptoms of COPD generally develop slowly over years and may not be noticed initially. Some symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and pallor, can be vague and attributed to other conditions as such as aging. Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain as similar to symptoms for such conditions as heart attack, pneumonia. And heart failure, and influenza.

Only a thorough evaluation by a physician or licensed health care provider can determine the cause of symptoms. It is important to seek prompt medical care if you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, or any other symptoms of COPD....more about COPD »

Alternative diagnoses list for COPD:

For a diagnosis of COPD, the following list of conditions have been mentioned in sources as possible alternative diagnoses to consider during the diagnostic process for COPD:

Diseases for which COPD may be an alternative diagnosis

The other diseases for which COPD is listed as a possible alternative diagnosis in their lists include:

COPD: Hidden Causes Misdiagnosed?

Causes of COPD may include these medical conditions:

Rare Types of COPD:

COPD: Medical Mistakes

Related medical mistakes may include:

COPD: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed conditions in related areas may include:

Common Misdiagnoses and COPD

Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis, when the condition is really a harmless complication of another infection, such as a common cold.

Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears off after about 15 years. Thus, any teen or adult with a persistent cough may actually have whooping cough. This is particularly dangerous for babies too young to be vaccinated, and any un-vaccinated children. Whooping cough can be fatal to an infant. The cough symptoms of whooping cough is usually productive initially, but then becomes a persistent dry cough, lasting up to 100 days. Elderly grandparents may also be a reservoir of undiagnosed whooping cough.

Alzheimer's disease over-diagnosed: The well-known disease of Alzheimer's disease is often over-diagnosed. Patients tend to assume that any memory loss or forgetulness symptom might be Alzheimer's, whereas there are many other less severe possibilities. Some level of memory decline is normal with aging, and even a slight loss of acuity may be noticed in the 30's and 40's. Other conditions can also lead a person to show greater forgetfulness. For example, depression and depressive disorders can cause a person to have reduced concentration and thereby poorer memory retention.

Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for a patient to show mental decline to dementia. Whereas this can, of course, occur due to various medical conditions, such as a stroke or Alzheimer's disease, it can also occur from a side effect or interaction between multiple drugs that the elderly patient may be taking. There are also various other possible causes of dementia.

Tremor need not be Parkinson's disease: There is the tendency to believe that any tremor symptom, or shakiness, means Parkinson's disease. The reality is that there are various possibilities, such as benign essential tremor, which is mostly harmless. see the various causes of tremor and misdiagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

Rare diseases misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease: A rare genetic disorder is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease for men in their 50's. The disease Fragile X disorder can show only mild symptoms in the early years, and Parkinsons-like symptoms around age 50. See misdiagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail to be diagnosed early. Some of the chronic lung diseases with diagnostic difficulties include asthma (perhaps surprisingly), COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, mesothelioma, smoker's cough, AIDS-related respiratory conditions (see AIDS), chronic pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases. Rare possibilities include diseases like psittacosis (bird-related lung infection). See other types of chronic lung diseases.

Misdiagnosed weight-related causes of infertility: A woman's weight status can affect her level of fertility. Although obesity or overweight can in themselves reduce fertility, there are other weight-related or associated medical conditions that further reduce fertility. Some of these hidden causes include COPD, diabetes, thyroid disorders (overactive thyroid or underactive thyroid) and metabolic syndrome. See also other causes of infertility.

COPD: Rare Types

Rare types of medical disorders and diseases in related medical areas:

Failure To Diagnose COPD

Failure to diagnose COPD may be associated with the following:

  • Failure to diagnose and treat COPD can lead to a more rapid progression of the disease and increased mortality rates. The progress of COPD can be minimized through treatment and avoidance of precipitating factors such as smoking
  • COPD often remains undiagnosed for lengthy periods of time because the initial symptoms such as a persistent morning cough are considered not significant enough to warrant medical advice
  • The absence of symptoms in the early stages of COPD and the subtle onset of symptoms often results in patients failing to seek medical advice. It's only once the symptoms become more serious that patients tend to act
  • COPD is a condition that develops later in life and patients with existing asthma often have and symptoms caused by developing COPD attributed to their asthma. Thus, a pre-existing respiratory condition increases the risk of COPD being misdiagnosed or undiagnosed
  • Untreated COPD can result in secondary polycythemia
  • Generally, the later the diagnosis and treatment of COPD, the poorer the survival rate
  • Studies show that periodontal disease may play a role in the development of COPD as the bacteria associated with the oral condition may travel to the lungs and cause damaging infection and inflammation
  • Poor nutrition and low birth weight are also believed to be risk factors for developing COPD. A low birth weight may indicate poor nutrition during the fetal stage which results in reduced lung functioning. Poor nutrition can also impact on lung function and cause damage which can result in COPD
  • Frequent lower respiratory tract infection during the childhood years can also increase the risk of COPD
  • Undiagnosed and untreated COPD can lead to recurring, serious chest infections, irregular heartbeat, cor pulmonale, increased blood count and in severe cases, respiratory failure
  • The damage caused by emphysema in COPD is irreversible whereas the damage caused by chronic bronchitis in COPD is reversible to some degree
  • Damage to the lungs has already occurred by the time symptoms appear

Notes On Hidden Causes Of COPD

The following may be hidden causes of COPD:

  • Smoking is the main secondary cause of COPD
  • Other causes of COPD include cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, airway infection, bronchial hyper responsiveness, bronciectasis and genetic predisposition
  • COPD can also be caused by occupations involving cadmium, silica and other dusts. Dusts can be caused in mining and grain industries. Fumes and respiratory irritants may also be causal factors
  • Fire-fighters face an increased risk of developing COPD
  • Allergies and asthma can eventually develop into COPD
  • In developing countries, inhalation of smoke while using biomass fuels for heating and cooking in poorly ventilated areas can lead to COPD
  • Genetic susceptibility plays an important role in the development of COPD a many heavy smokers won't develop COPD whereas some light smokers will
  • Air pollution may increase the death rate in COPD sufferers
  • Secondary smoke is often a hidden cause of COPD

Notes On Wrong Diagnosis Of COPD

Wrong diagnosis of COPD may be associated with the following:

  • COPD is often misdiagnosed as asthma as they share similar symptoms - e.g. wheezing. Misdiagnosis of the condition leads to inappropriate treatment which can lead to further progression of COPD.
  • COPD is often misdiagnosed because it usually involves the overlap of several other respiratory conditions - emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Complications Of Misdiagnosis Of COPD

The following may be complications of misdiagnosis of COPD:

  • Coughing caused by COPD may be misdiagnosed as smoker's cough, asthmatic cough, tuberculosis, pneumonia, asthma, respiratory irritations, aspiration or inhalation of cold air
  • Sputum production due to COPD may be misdiagnosed as chronic bronchitis, smoker's cough, bronchiectasis, bronchoalveolar carcinoma, pneumonia, tuberculosis, lung abscess and pulmonary edema
  • Shortness of breath due to COPD may be misdiagnosed as anemia, pulmonary edema, chronic heart failure, cystic fibrosis, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia
  • Cyanosis due to COPD may be misdiagnosed as pulmonary hypoventilation

Other Notes On Misdiagnosis Of COPD

  • Respiratory infections in COPD patients are generally more severe and debilitating
  • COPD sufferers need to obtain medical advice when flying as they may require an additional oxygen supply to cope with drop in cabin pressure
  • Severe shortness of breath or swelling in the lower limbs may be a sign of congestive heart failure in COPD patients

Medical news summaries about misdiagnosis of COPD:

The following medical news items are relevant to misdiagnosis of COPD:

Misdiagnosis and COPD deaths

COPD is a condition that can possibly be deadly if misdiagnosed...more »

General Misdiagnosis Articles

Read these general articles with an overview of misdiagnosis issues.

About misdiagnosis:

When checking for a misdiagnosis of COPD or confirming a diagnosis of COPD, it is useful to consider what other medical conditions might be possible misdiagnoses or other alternative conditions relevant to diagnosis. These alternate diagnoses of COPD may already have been considered by your doctor or may need to be considered as possible alternative diagnoses or candidates for misdiagnosis of COPD. For a general overview of misdiagnosis issues for all diseases, see Overview of Misdiagnosis.


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