An old clich says that the person who hires themselves to act as their own lawyer as a fool for a client. Along the same lines, it is not recommended that one act as his or her own physician. However, it is only common sense not to ignore signs and symptoms of diseases.
When it comes to diagnosing asthma, several obvious characteristics of the disease should be present. These can include wheezing, shortness of breath, trouble breathing and excessive chronic coughing. While each of these signs and symptoms are significant and should be examined by one’s family doctor, they alone are not enough to diagnose asthma because they are common symptoms of many other diseases and conditions as well.
A family physician will use a number of things to diagnosis the person’s signs and symptoms, including performing a full physical examination and asking the person specific questions about his or her general health and personal and family medical history.
Vital aids to in the diagnosis of asthma are breathing tests. These tests are generally painless and do not take much time to perform. The breathing tests help diagnose how well or poor the patient is breathing. They also test the efficiency of the person’s lungs. Measuring the amount of breath a person is exhaling and its rate of expulsion allows the doctor or test administrator to see if the person has narrowing of the respiratory passages.
Two breathing tests are used the most often to diagnose asthma: spirometry and peak expiratory flow. Spirometry is a machine used to measure the patient’s lung capacity by having him or her suck in a deep breath and then blow it out as fast as he or she can. It’s vital to the accuracy of the test that the patient’s lungs emptied as much as possible after exhaling. If abnormal breathing is detected, the person is offered medicine to try and open the air pathways. The same test is then run and if the patient’s breathing eases, it is considered a pretty good indication that he or she has asthma. However, it does not mean he or she doesn’t have asthma if a breathing does not improve after consuming the medicine. Severe asthma might require many weeks of medicinal treatment to open the airways, whereas mild asthma may show up as a normal spirometry reading.
The other common breathing test is the peak expiratory flow test. It measures a person’s expiratory air flow. The person being tested takes in a lungful of air and then blows into the machine’s mouthpiece. When air from the person’s lungs goes into the meter, it makes a piston to push upward on a dial. This dial is what gives the doctor or test administrator your peak flow, which is what the person’s personal physician will use in order to determine the severity of his or her asthma.
Doctor’s also use chest X-rays and blood tests in order to determine whether or not a patient has asthma. Many of these blood tests measure levels of a key antibody called immunoglobulin. It is this antibody that is released by the body in order to combat an allergic reaction. Every person makes immunoglobulin, but this antibody is produced in larger quantities in people with allergies. This is a crucial to the diagnosis of asthma because allergies often lead to asthma.