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Playing Doctor and Paying a Price?

Survey Finds Patients are Confused Between Allergy and Sinusitis Symptoms

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A new survey finds that many Americans who self-diagnose themselves with nasal allergies or sinusitis have difficulty differentiating between symptoms of the two conditions. As a result, they may be misdiagnosing themselves and potentially suffering from a more severe form of the condition known as chronic sinusitis. According to the survey conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) just before National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month in May, a significant percentage of those suffering from symptoms are skipping a visit to their doctor and diagnosing themselves even when their symptoms are severe. As a result, patients may often be confusing sinus infection symptoms with allergy symptoms, and not getting optimal care for their condition.

“The symptoms of sinusitis are similar to allergies, and sometimes allergies can lead to sinusitis, so it’s no surprise to learn that patients are confused,” says Mike Tringale, vice president of external affairs at AAFA. “However, there is 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 your doctor for a correct diagnosis and the right medical solution.”

It is estimated that 7 million Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis, resulting in nearly 32 million cases reported by healthcare providers each year according to the CDC, making it one of the most common health problems in the United States. As this month marks the peak of spring allergy season, it’s important that those suffering from persistent allergies get a proper diagnosis since almost half (47%) of the respondents to the AAFA survey admit to self-diagnosing when they have symptoms.  But close to two in five (39%) respondents think it’s difficult to differentiate between symptoms, and, as a result, over half (51%) have misdiagnosed themselves with allergies when it actually turned out to be sinusitis.

Dr. Stacey Silvers of Beth Israel Hospital in New York City says she is not surprised to learn that close to one in four (23%) respondents typically experience more than three sinus infections a year, meaning that they may actually have chronic sinusitis, while nearly one half (48%) of sinusitis sufferers have not been told about chronic sinusitis by a medical professional.

“Chronic sinusitis has been under-diagnosed for many years for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Silvers.  ”However, since many patients are confused about which medications to take and more than 50 percent of patients do not respond adequately to medications, it’s import that they consult with an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician to get the most appropriate treatment to alleviate long-term suffering.”            

Results of the online survey conducted in April 2011 among 621 respondents from AAFA’s constituent database of asthma and allergy patients found:

Self-diagnosing Often Leads to Misdiagnosing

Although nearly three in four (70%) sinusitis sufferers most trust a primary care physician to correctly diagnose symptoms of allergies or sinus infections, less than four in ten (36%) usually go to a primary care physician (PCP) for this reason.

  • Almost half (47%) of the respondents with sinusitis admit to self-diagnosing when they have symptoms.
  • Over a third (37%) of sinusitis sufferers are self-diagnosing now more than they were five years ago.
  • Despite their regular practice of diagnosing themselves, only 41 percent of sinusitis sufferers actually trust themselves to properly diagnosis symptoms of allergies and sinus infections.
  • Over half (51%) of sufferers have misdiagnosed themselves as having allergies when it actually turned out to be sinusitis.
  • Perhaps so many are incorrectly assessing themselves because close to two in five (39%) think it’s difficult to differentiate between symptoms of cold and flu, allergies and sinusitis.
  • Still, over two in five (41%) of those who think it’s not easy to tell these signs of sickness apart typically diagnose themselves when they have these symptoms.

It Could be Chronic Sinusitis 

  • Close to one in four (23%) respondents typically experience this condition more than three times a year, which means that they may actually have chronic sinusitis.
  • Nearly one half (48%) of sinusitis sufferers have not been told about chronic sinusitis by a medical professional.
  • Over half (55%) who have heard of chronic sinusitis underestimate the minimum number of weeks this condition lasts, and another 39 percent have no idea.
  • Even those who might be able to correctly diagnose themselves with sinusitis could be treating the condition incorrectly. Many patient respondents have only used short-term remedies for sinusitis that are, alone, not considered appropriate optimal long-term treatment for sinus infections, such as sinus rinses (60%), over-the-counter pain medicines (60%), nasal sprays (58%), over-the-counter pseudoephedrine (50%) or antihistamines (43%).
  • Far fewer have relied on sinus surgery (11%), a long-term treatment option for certain patients with chronic sinusitis. What’s more, just over one in four (26%) survey respondents who have heard of chronic sinusitis are aware that a minimally invasive treatment option exists for the condition.
  • What’s more, nearly half (49%) of sinusitis sufferers have never seen an ENT about their sinusitis.

For full results of the survey, go to www.aafa.org/sinusitis

About the Survey

The AAFA survey, which was supported by funding from Acclarent, Inc., was conducted by Kelton Research between April 15th and 29th, 2011 using an email invitation to AAFA’s constituent database and an online survey.  Each respondent reported suffering from sinusitis and experiencing symptoms of cold or flu, allergies or sinusitis at least twice in an average year. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. In this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 3.9 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.

About AAFA

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1953, is the leading patient organization for people with asthma, allergies and related conditions. AAFA is dedicated to improving the quality of life for patients through education, advocacy and research. AAFA provides practical information, community based services and support through a network of regional chapters, support groups and other local partners around the United States. For more information, visit www.aafa.org.

About Kelton Research

Kelton Research is a full service market research consultancy with offices in Los Angeles and New York. Kelton serves as a strategic partner to both Fortune 500 corporations and smaller companies, utilizing a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies to drive tactical recommendations for clients. For more information about Kelton's services, please visit http://www.keltonresearch.com.

 
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