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Diagnosing Asthma

(continued)

Diagnosing Asthma and Your Doctor continued...

____Chest pain or pressure

____Difficulty talking

____Feelings of anxiety or panic

____Pale, sweaty face

____Blue lips or fingernails

2. When do you experience these asthma symptoms? 

____ All the time; unpredictable

____ Only with exercise

____ At nighttime

____ Early morning hours while sleeping

___   During pollen season

___   When you feel stressed or anxious

___   When you smell smoke

___   When you smell fragrance

___   When you’re around dogs or cats

___   When you’re in air-conditioning or breathe cold air

___   When you laugh or sing

___   Associated with allergies, a sinus infection, or postnasal drip

___   Associated with heartburn or GERD

___   When you take aspirin, other anti-inflammatory drugs, or other medication

3.  Do you have a family history of asthma or allergy?

4.  Do you get bronchitis frequently?

5.  Have you been diagnosed with asthma previously?

6. Have you been in the ED for asthma or been on prednisone for asthma?

Diagnosing Asthma and Asthma Tests

After talking with you about your asthma symptoms and possible asthma triggers, your doctor will do a physical exam, laboratory testing, and other possible asthma tests. This will allow you to have a firm understanding of your breathing problems and will be the basis for the suggested plan of asthma treatment.

For more detail, see WebMD’s article Asthma Tests.

Your doctor may use one or more of the following asthma tests in diagnosing asthma. These tests are used to assess your breathing and to monitor the effectiveness of asthma treatment.

Spirometry -- a lung (or pulmonary) function test that measures how much air you can exhale. This asthma test confirms the presence of airway obstruction that improves with treatment, which is very characteristic of asthma, and can accurately measure the degree of lung function impairment. This test can also monitor your response to asthma medications and is recommended for adults and children over age 5.

For more information, see WebMD's Pulmonary Function Tests.

Peak Flow Testing -- a self-assessment you can do at home to evaluate lung function. The peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) provides a reliable objective measure of airway function. Your doctor will go over how to use a peak flow meter, which involves taking a deep breath and blowing out as hard as you can. Peak flow is the highest airflow velocity that you can achieve. When done accurately, a drop in the peak flow measurement reflects an obstruction in your airways. While peak flow is less accurate than office spirometry for monitoring of lung function, peak flow monitoring at home can help you manage your symptoms at home and help indicate when an asthma attack may be approaching.

For more information, see WebMD’s Using a Peak Flow Meter.

Chest X-Ray -- while not routinely required, if there are symptoms that may be caused by another condition such as pneumonia, your doctor may want to do a chest X-ray. Or, if your asthma treatment is not working as well as it should, a chest X-ray may help to clarify the problem.

For more information, see WebMD's Asthma Tests.

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