Diagnosing Asthma

Methods for Diagnosing Asthma

There are several steps to diagnosing asthma, including reviewing medical history, physical exams and breath tests, among others. A doctor usually arranges a few tests to determine what level of asthma a patient has. Generally, asthma can be clinically classified on one of four levels, based on the frequency of the asthma, forced expiratory volume (FEV) in a second and peak expiratory flow rate (intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent and severely persistent). If you have asthma, be prepared for getting a proper diagnosis.

asthma diagnosing

1. Medical history

In order to get an accurate diagnosis, it’s necessary to deliver complete and detailed information on your personal allergy history, as well your family medical history of asthma. All of this information and details on your asthma symptoms are very important for your doctor to be able to diagnose your asthmatic condition. Questions such as when the asthma symptoms occur, how frequently you get these symptoms and what kind of factors aggravate them are common for your doctor to ask. Here are the most common symptoms of asthma:

1) Coughing
2) Wheezing
3) Bouts of breathlessness
4) Chest tightness
5) Symptoms become exacerbated at night
6)Symptoms that worsen with cold air
7) Symptoms that occur during or after exercises
8) Symptoms that happen after allergic reactions

In addition, your general health can influence asthma, so you should note any changes to your health, such as sinus infections, a runny nose, acid reflux diseases, sleep apnea or psychological stress. It is also worthy to note, that it can be a little difficult to accurately diagnosis asthmatic symptoms in children, if they occur before the age of five. Other childhood health conditions may produce similar symptoms to those caused by asthma, which can be confusing for doctors. However, if young children have wheezing episodes when they are experiencing cold air or frequently have respiratory infections, their chances of developing asthma after age six is generally higher.

2. Physical examinations

Physical examinations focusing on asthma, will mainly check the patient’s chest, upper respiratory tract and skin. The doctor usually uses his stethoscope to hear whether there are signs of asthma in your lungs when you are breathing. Wheezing or a high-pitched whistling sound as you exhale, are both major signs of asthma and obstructed airways.
In addition, your nose will also be checked thoroughly to see whether there you have a runny nose or nasal polyps, or whether your nasal passages are swollen. And the doctor will check your skins condition looking for hives or eczema, which are both also related to asthma.
However, although physical symptoms are important signs in diagnosing asthma, sufferers don’t necessarily present the all of the symptoms at the same time. There may in fact, be no symptoms present at the time of the exam.

3. Breathing Tests

Lung or pulmonary function tests should be the third part of asthma diagnosis. Your physician will administer a spirometry test to measure the volume of your inhalation and exhalation, and the rate of your blowing. As one type of noninvasive test, spirometry needs the patients to breathe deeply, and then exhale greatly into the prepared hose that is connected to spirometer, which can present two measurements directly. One is forced vital capacity (FVC) that expresses the maximum volume of one’s inhalation and exhalation. The other is forced expiratory volume (FEV-1) than is used to test the peak volume of air one can exhale within one second.

Your physician will compare the two measurements with standards to see whether your measures are within normal ranges. If the results are below normal levels, this may indicate you have constructed airways. Probably, your physician will prepare a bronchodilator drug for you to open your air passages, so he can have the test one more time to ensure the accurate measurements. Higher results than before mean it is necessary for you to receive asthma diagnoses.

In children who are under the age of six, spirometry is more difficult to administer since they are too young for this test. Therefore, asthma diagnoses for them mainly focus on the symptoms, physical examinations and medical histories. Usually, the physician will prescribe four to six weeks’ medicines to check their responses.

4. Others

The Broncho provocation challenge test: This test is to trigger asthma symptoms deliberately by using some airway-constricting substances or activities. For example, doing intensive exercises can be used to trigger asthma symptoms of Exercise-Induced asthma. Following this challenge test, the physician will administer the spirometry test instantly to get the two key measurements. If measurements remain at normal range, there may be no possibilities for asthma.

It’s common for the doctors to identify which substances can cause or worsen asthma by using allergy tests. Although these tests can offer some clues to understand asthma natures, they can’t be adopted to diagnose asthma. Tests are also administered by the doctor to diagnose other diseases that may have similar symptoms to asthma. Possible diseases include heartburn, congestive heart failure, reflux disease, hay fever, sleep apnea, sinusitis, airway obstruction, airway tumors, bronchitis, pulmonary embolism, lung infection, vocal cord dysfunction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and viral lower respiratory infection.

And testing measures are also very varied and may include electrocardiograms (EKGs), computerized tomography (CT) lung scans, chest x-rays and so on. A newly found test that can get more accurate asthma diagnoses by judging the exhaled nitric oxide, which is closing to what physicians are expecting. Larger amount of nitric oxide are highly linked to more severe asthma. However, high cost and specialized equipment requirements are the two major drawbacks of this new test. Generally, a primary care doctor is competent enough for asthma diagnoses, but there are some cases where attention from asthma specialists can’t be avoided, such as when:

1) An overall special test is necessary to diagnose your asthma.
2) Your life was threatened by serious asthma attack previously.
3) Add more medicines or increase medical doses to better relieve your asthma symptoms.
4) You are taking some allergy treatments or you can’t control your asthma completely.

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