Asthma is a clinical diagnosis. In other words, the symptoms and clinical findings are used to diagnose the condition. If you suspect that you or your child are suffering from asthma, your doctor will be able to give you a diagnosis based on your medical and family history, a physical exam, and test results.
Your doctor will also be able to tell you the severity of your asthma. The level of severity – whether it's intermittent, mild, moderate, or severe – determines the treatment options that best suit your condition.
What Are Common Ways To
Diagnose Asthma ?
Personal and Medical History
Your doctor may ask about your family history of allergies and asthma. He or she may also ask whether you have asthma symptoms, how and when they occur.
A typical patient history might include :
- Symptoms that come and go, usually worse at night
- Cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing
- Symptoms triggered by specific items or events such as exercise, cold air or allergen exposure.
- A personal or family history of asthma, allergic rhinitis and/or eczema
In order to help make a diagnosis of asthma, your doctor will conduct a breathing test called spirometry. This is a simple blowing test that assesses how well your lungs are working. It measures how much air you can inhale, how much you can exhale and how much air you can breathe out in a single forced breath.
Your doctor may repeat your spirometry after giving you a medication (inhaled or nebulised) to try and open up your airways. If there is evidence that your airways open up and your lung function improves with this medication, then it helps confirm the diagnosis of asthma.
However, you can still have asthma with normal lung function! This is why you need a doctor to confirm the diagnosis of asthma.
Your doctor will listen to your breathing and look for signs of asthma or allergies. These signs include wheezing, a runny nose or swollen nasal passages, and allergic skin conditions (such as eczema). It is important to note that you can still have asthma even if these signs do not show on the day of the physical examination.
Will They Test For Other Conditions?
Your doctor may recommend other tests if he or she needs more information to make a diagnosis. Other tests may include :
- Exhaled Nitric Oxide – a simple blowing test which is a marker of airway inflammation in Asthma.
- Allergy testing – to identify specific allergens that might cause asthma attack or deterioration of symptoms.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) – to look for any sign of an abnormal heart rhythm that might be responsible for symptoms of breathlessness.
- Chest X-ray – to ensure there is no other reason for breathlessness.