From Our 2011 Archives
Allergy Self-Diagnosis Leads to Misdiagnosis
Survey Shows Many Americans Confuse Allergies and Sinus Infections
Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD
May 18, 2011 -- Many people misdiagnose themselves as having allergies when they actually have sinusitis, a survey shows, and skip a visit to the doctor.
The survey was conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
The AAFA says that when people confuse sinusitis symptoms with signs of allergies, they often suffer longer than they would if they visited a doctor, who could make a proper diagnosis.
The AAFA says symptoms of sinusitis are similar to signs of allergies, but that too many people try to diagnose themselves.
According to a survey of 621 people, conducted online from a database of asthma and allergy patients, about 70% of sinusitis sufferers most trust a primary care doctor to correctly diagnose symptoms, yet only 36% go to one for help.
Self-Diagnosis Can Be Counterproductive
Among the findings of the survey:
Allergies vs. Chronic Sinusitis
Mike Tringale, vice president of external affairs at the AAFA, says in a news release that there's a key difference between allergies and chronic sinusitis.
"If you have allergy-like symptoms that last longer than 12 weeks, or symptoms that occur more than three times per year, with symptoms usually lasting more than 20 days despite treatment attempts, you may have chronic sinusitis and should see a doctor for a correct diagnosis and the right medical solution," he says.
About 7 million Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis, resulting in some 32 million cases reported by doctors and other health care providers every year.
The survey was released to coincide with the peak of spring allergy season, which makes it important for people with symptoms to see a specialist, says the AAFA.
Stacey Silvers, MD, of Beth Israel Hospital in New York, says chronic sinusitis has been underdiagnosed for many years.
Because so many people are confused about treatment of the chronic sinusitis and more than 50% of people do not respond adequately to medications, "it's important that they consult with an ear, nose and throat physician to get the most appropriate treatment to alleviate long-term suffering," she says.
Common symptoms of sinusitis include:
Some cases of chronic sinusitis due to infection are treated with antibiotics.
SOURCE: News release, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. ©2011 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.