Why are patients not informing doctors about their work related asthma?

Why are patients not informing doctors about their work related asthma?

There are many different issues that people don’t wish to speak to their doctor about. Personal and potentially embarrassing issues are often high on the list however a new study has highlighted other worries such as job security.

A new study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has found that work related asthma is often not discussed with doctors due to fear of job security. The research team used data which was compiled via telephone interviews between 2006 and 2010. The survey included 50,000 adults across different states in America.

The results of the research reported that only 15 per cent of asthma sufferers discussed with their doctor how their work could have potentially affected their condition. This is a stark contrast to the 46 per cent who were noted as possibly having asthma that is work related. This issue has been related to the individual being worried that the diagnosis could affect their job and therefore income.

Lead author of the study, Dr Jacek Mazurek of the U.S National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health commented with the following

Work-related asthma is underdiagnosed and under-recognized. A thorough occupational history is critical to first establishing a diagnosis of work-related asthma, and then putting measures in place to prevent further exposure, or to treat it.”

“Unfortunately, many people may believe that nothing can be done, or may worry about losing their jobs, so are reluctant to address the topic with their doctor”.

The issue here relates to not only the fear of job security and income but also the awareness of asthma as a work related condition. It is common for people to believe that their asthma is simply worsening due to natural circumstances even though their workplace could be the root cause. It is noted in the study that the doctors in many circumstances don’t enquire as to whether the cause could be work related, which leads to more fear about addressing the issue.

Dr Mark Dykewicz, chair of the occupational health committee of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology noted the following

“Hundreds of different workplace airborne exposures have been identified to cause or aggravate asthma.”

“Problem exposures may include chemicals, dusts, fumes, insects and animals that are encountered not only in factories, but also farms, offices, medical and research settings. If someone already has asthma, it can be worsened by airborne substances at work.”

The amount of reported work-related asthma cases to employers is not noted in the study however if diagnosis is as low as 15 per cent it suggests that the fear of job security is apparent in the workplace as well as in the doctor’s office. A further promotion of hazards in the workplace could potentially be one way in combating the fear element of work-related asthma and other conditions.

[1] “Why Patients Won’t Talk to Their Docs About Work-Related Asthma”, Allergic Living, http://allergicliving.com/2015/02/03/patients-may-avoid-topic-of-work-related-asthma-for-fear-of-losing-jobs/
[2] “Can we talk? Patients may avoid topic of work-related asthma for fear of losing jobs”, Medical Express Online, http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-02-patients-topic-work-related-asthma-jobs.html
[3] “Workers May Be Afraid to Discuss Job-Related Asthma”, Doctors Lounge, http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/hd/52785