When diagnosing asthma, the doctor considers the person's medical history (including family history) and symptoms they may be experiencing. In addition to asking questions and performing a physical exam, tests such as spirometer and bronchial challenge tests may be used in diagnosing asthma. An important aspect of diagnosing asthma is classifying it based on how severe a person's asthma symptoms are when his or her asthma is not well controlled.
In order to diagnose asthma, your doctor will likely ask a number of questions, perform a physical exam, and conduct some tests.
In order to help in diagnosing asthma, your doctor will ask about the following:
- Periods of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest tightness that come on suddenly, occur often, or seem to happen during certain times of the year
- Colds that seem to "go to the chest" or that take more than 10 days to get over
- Medicines you may have used to help your breathing
- Your family history of asthma and allergies
- What things seem to cause asthma symptoms or make them worse.
Your doctor may also listen to your breathing and look for signs of asthma or allergies.
There are several tests used in diagnosing asthma, 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.