Many asthmatic patients may have abnormal breathing patterns

May 03, 2001

Prevalence of dysfunctional breathing in patients treated for asthma in primary care: cross sectional survey

Editorial: Dysfunctional breathing and asthma

Large numbers of asthmatic patients may have abnormal breathing patterns, finds a study in this week's BMJ, suggesting an important unrecognised diagnostic overlap between asthma and dysfunctional breathing.

All adults receiving treatment for asthma in one general practice were surveyed to assess symptoms associated with abnormal breathing. About a third of women and a fifth of men had symptoms suggestive of dysfunctional breathing. The problem affected patients at all levels of asthma treatment but particularly women and younger adults.

Further studies are needed to confirm these findings, say the authors. However, if dysfunctional breathing is as common as our data show, facilities for breathing retraining need to be available as part of the overall management of asthmatic patients.

In an accompanying editorial, Duncan Keeley and Liesl Osman write: "we do not believe that nearly a third of patients in general practice with a diagnosis of asthma have been wrongly diagnosed." They acknowledge the overlap between the symptoms of asthma and anxiety with dysfunctional breathing, but stress that careful history taking, examination, and physiological measurements - together with sympathetic explanation and reassurance - can help to avoid misdiagnosis.

[Paper]: Mike Thomas, General Practitioner, Surgery, Minchinhampton, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK Email:

[Editorial]: Duncan Keeley, General Practitioner, Health Centre Thame, Oxfordshire, UK Email:


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