1. Physical Examination Offers Specific Clues
Shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are all familiar symptoms of asthma. Whether you suffer these symptoms on a periodic basis or ongoing, you may have asthma. However, because there are so many other illnesses with these signs and symptoms, a doctor won’t be so quick to diagnose you. Most doctors will use a combination of facts and test results before making a determination, and then recommend a treatment plan to help you control attacks. This will start with a physical examination. Your healthcare professional will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope to hear if there are any blocked pathways. She may also look up your nose for polyps or mucus, which could indicate allergies or asthma. As she does the exam, she may ask you questions about how often you get the symptoms, whether they are accompanied by a cold or fever and whether your symptoms are worse in the morning.
2. Look to Your Medical History
The doctor will also look at your medical history to collect information about your particular case. Previous illnesses, such as repeated episodes of bronchitis, may be a clue to your diagnosis. Having trouble breathing in smoke-filled rooms or around certain animals could also signal that you have asthma. If there are other people in your family who have asthma, you might have it too.
3. The Challenge Test
At this point, if your doctor suspects asthma, she may send you for one or more diagnostic tests, such as the challenge test. There are two main types of challenge test. The first is the inhalation challenge, where you will inhale small amounts of substances to measure your reaction. The second is the exercise challenge, which as its name entails, involves doing a spirometry before and after you complete controlled physical activity (like riding a stationary bike).
4. Spirometry Tests Your Lung Capacity
Breathing hard and fast into a spirometer helps doctors measure your lung capacity. If the readings indicate you have obstructive airways, you may have asthma. Another way your doctor will diagnose you with spirometry is if the results indicate asthma, she may give you a fast-acting inhaler to clear your lungs and then repeat the test. If your results are significantly better, you might have asthma.
5. Lab Tests Offer Reassurance
While there are no specific lab tests that look for asthma, the following tests can offer additional information that aids in asthma diagnosis. For example, a chest X-ray can indicate pneumonia or lung cancer while a sputum examination may rule out asthma for an infection. Other tests include, a complete blood count, chest and sinus X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, gastroesophageal reflux assessment, and sputum induction and examination.