TUESDAY, Feb. 3, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Only 15 percent of working adults with asthma discuss with their doctor how their jobs might affect their breathing, even though nearly half have asthma that is possibly work-related, a new study reveals.
The researchers also found that doctors often don't bring up the topic with patients.
People may be reluctant to talk about work-related asthma because they're worried about how it might affect their job and income, said the authors of the study published Feb. 3 in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
"Work-related asthma is underdiagnosed and under-recognized," lead author Dr. Jacek Mazurek, of the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said in a journal news release.
"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," Mazurek noted. "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 survey included more than 50,000 employed adults with asthma in 40 states and the District of Columbia. For 46 percent of workers with asthma, the condition appeared to be work-related, the researchers said.
"Hundreds of different workplace airborne exposures have been identified to cause or aggravate asthma," said Dr. Mark Dykewicz, chair of the occupational health committee of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
"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," he explained in the news release. "If someone already has asthma, it can be worsened by airborne substances at work," Dykewicz added.
Once workplace-related asthma develops, continued exposure to job-related asthma triggers can lead to permanent lung problems, and the risk can increase the longer the exposure continues, according to the news release. Early testing is recommended, the study authors said.
One in 12 U.S. adults has asthma, according to the American Lung Association.
The American Lung Association has more about asthma in the workplace.