Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma have not received a diagnosis, so their respiratory symptoms remain largely untreated. It is estimated that 70% of people with COPD or asthma do not receive a diagnosis of their condition. This percentage refers to worldwide numbers of patients. I find it very hard to believe these statistics would apply to an advanced, wealthy country like the US but, none the less, we do see patients in the office who have never had an accurate diagnosis of their respiratory conditions despite the fact that they have been having symptoms. Why is this important?

A large Canadian study of over 38,000 patients found that about 15% were found to have previously undiagnosed COPD or asthma. Half of this group had some health care intervention and half did not. Patients were observed from June 2017 to January 2024. Atthe end of the observational period, those who had received pulmonologist-directed treatment had less health care utilization for respiratory illness than those who received usual care.

What this is telling us is that the sooner a diagnosis of COPD or asthma is made the better the outcome. Patients receiving pulmonologist-directed carealso were found to have better lung function, less hospitalizations and less exacerbations.

While the study group referenced pulmonary-directed care, appropriate care administered by primary care physicians had equally good outcomes. Thebottom line is, if you have symptoms, get diagnosed and get some care. Your short and long-term outlooks will be improved.