Symptoms & Diagnosis

Diagnoses of Asthma

Even though asthma is a disease that has no cure at this time, the medical community is constantly improving on its ability to successfully diagnose the disease. Although some of the preliminary steps that any doctor will take to investigate whether or not a patient has asthma, a few more recent discoveries have allowed doctors to identify the presence of asthma more quickly and accurately.


"Classic" Tests

When a patient reports to the doctor with symptoms that tend to indicate the presence of asthma, the medical care provider will ask a series of questions before even beginning the physical examination. Common examples of these questions include queries regarding family history, whether the patient has had any trouble breathing and whether the patient finds him or herself constantly fatigued and/or out of breath.

Beyond these questions, the doctor will also perform the basic tests of listening to the heart and lungs before taking the next step. The 'next steps' could include such tests as allergy tests, blood tests, chest X–rays and perhaps sinus X–rays. Many of these tests could lead to the diagnosis of asthma, but there are other, newer options available to the medical community.

The Pulmonary Function Test

Pulmonary function tests actually refer to a series of tests, all of which are designed to measure the function of breathing. As of now, there are two very common types of pulmonary function tests, and they include:

  • Methacholine challenge test – This test uses Methacholine, which is an agent that, when inhaled, causes the airways to spasm and narrow if asthma is present. If the lung function drops by at least 20 percent, then the test is considered positive and the patient is diagnosed with asthma.
  • Spirometry – Although this test sounds quite complicated, it's actually anything but technical in nature. A typical spirometry involves the doctor asking the patient to inhale and exhale as quickly as possible, and this process allows the doctor to measure the amount of obstruction in the lungs. Many of these tests involve the use of a short-acting medication that's designed to help expand the airways, as this will help doctors to more easily identify lungs that are clearly limited in terms of their ability to function at a high rate of speed.

Of course, there are other, less common tests available, but generally speaking doctors have been extremely successful in diagnosing asthma in patients using any or all of the tests above. The bottom line is that asthma is being discovered earlier in patients than ever before, and this not only improves a patient's quality of life, but has also saved lives.