When making an asthma diagnosis, the doctor considers factors such the person's medical history (including family history) and his or her symptoms. Tests used to make an asthma diagnosis include spirometer and bronchial challenge. An asthma diagnosis will likely be based on a classification -- that is, the severity of the person's symptoms when his or her asthma is not well controlled.
Asthma can be difficult to diagnose, especially in children under 5 years of age. Regular physical exams that include checks of lung function and tests for allergies can help make an asthma diagnosis.
A healthcare provider trying to diagnose asthma may ask you questions about coughing, especially coughing at night, and whether breathing problems are worse after physical activity or during a particular time of year. Providers may also ask about other symptoms, such as chest tightness, wheezing, and colds that last more than 10 days.
Your healthcare provider may ask about your family history of asthma, allergy, and other breathing problems, and your home environment. He or she also may ask about lost school or work days and things that limit your activities.
There are several tests used to make an asthma diagnosis, including:
- Spirometer test
- Bronchial challenge test
- Other tests.
Your doctor will probably use a device called a spirometer to check your airways. This test is called spirometry. The test measures how much air and how fast you can blow air out of your lungs after taking a deep breath. The results will be lower than normal if your airways are inflamed and narrowed, as with asthma, or if the muscles around your airways have tightened up. As part of the test, your doctor may give you a medication that helps open up narrowed airways and see if it changes or improves your test results. Spirometry is also used to check your asthma over time to see how you are doing.