Many people believe they have asthma, or have been diagnosed with asthma without any diagnostic testing. Many doctors listen to your chest with a stethoscope and hear you wheezing and diagnose you with asthma. Aside from the testing, your doctor may also look for signs of eczema, because many people who have asthma also have eczema. To be properly diagnosed for asthma, your doctor should do a physical examination and do some tests to measure the volume of air you are able to breathe in and out.
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will have to examine you. However, before examining you, your doctor may ask you questions about your family history. Often, asthma runs in families. By examining you, and performing tests, your doctor will determine if your asthma symptoms are mild, moderate or severe. Depending on your test results, your doctor may discover you don’t have asthma at all. Just because you wheeze, doesn’t necessarily mean you have asthma, which is why you need to see a physician for your symptoms.
Be prepared for your doctor to ask you many questions concerning your asthma symptoms. You will likely be asked what sets off your asthma symptoms. You may be asked if your symptoms get worse at night. Other questions may be if your symptoms appear at only certain times, or in certain places. You may also ask if your symptoms get worse if you are under stress. You may also be question about foods that you eat, and if you have asthma symptoms after eating certain foods, or drinking cold liquids.
Your doctor will listen to your chest with a stethoscope as you breathe normally. You may also be asked to take deep breaths and to cough while he/she listens to your chest. After a preliminary examination, your doctor will probably have you breathe into a device called a spirometer. The spirometery test measures the volume of air you can inhale and exhale. The test also measures how quickly you can move air in and out of your lungs. Your doctor will record the results of your test. A few minutes after your first test, your doctor will have you inhale some asthma medication, and then test you again with the spirometer to see if your results have improved with medication. Your doctor may order a pulmonary function test that is usually done in a hospital or clinic. Besides pulmonary tests, you may also have tests and X-rays to rule out any other diseases or conditions that might mimic the symptoms have.
To be properly diagnosed for asthma you must have a decrease in lung function. Without the proper testing you could be treated for asthma when you have some other illness not even related to asthma. One lung function test, the forced vital capacity test, measures the maximum amount of air that your lungs can hold. Another test, the forced expiratory volume test, measures how fast and efficiently you can move air out of your lungs.
It is important to test for asthma, and not just assume because you are wheezing that you have asthma. Nasal polyps could cause wheezing, which is why the doctor normally looks up your nose when he/she examines you for a respiratory illness. Allergies can cause sinus problems, which can also mimic some of the symptoms of asthma. There are other conditions that also cause wheezing, such as bronchitis and emphysema. Pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are two other conditions that could be confused with asthma. People with heart problems may also have a condition called pulmonary edema, which also makes you wheeze. If you have been having asthma symptoms and your doctor does not do diagnostic testing to confirm or rule out the presence of asthma, ask your doctor about them.