Asthma Diagnosis

To help diagnose your condition, your doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to your breathing. He or she may also use a device called a spirometer to check how well your lungs are working. All you have to do is take a deep breath in and then breathe out as hard as you can into a tube that is connected to the spirometer.

The spirometer will show the amount of air you breathed out and how fast you breathed it out over a specified time period, usually 1 second. If your airways are inflamed and narrowed or if the muscles around your airways have tightened up, the results will show it.

As part of the test, your doctor may give you a medicine to help open up your airways to see if your spirometry results improve.

He or she may also test how sensitive your airways are to irritants in the air. You will be asked to gradually inhale increasing doses of methacholine, a substance that can cause your airways to narrow. After each dose, spirometry will be used to measure any changes in your ability to breathe out forcefully. Once the test is completed, you will be given a medication to open your airways back up.

Your doctor may also conduct-or send you for-other tests. These include:

  • Allergy testing to find out if and what allergens affect you
  • A test to see how your airways react to exercise
  • Tests to see if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • A test for sinus disease
  • A chest x ray or an electrocardiogram to find out if a foreign object or other lung or heart disease could be causing your symptoms

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 17, 2009

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