Asthma is a concerning diagnosis, even for those who have dealt with it for years. It is important to know what you’re up against and what steps to take. The first step is to determine whether or not you have asthma. It might help if, before going in for a doctor’s diagnosis and an asthma test, you understand the signs and symptoms of asthma.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Asthma?
Asthma is a lung condition that causes shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. It can be triggered by several things, including airborne allergens and physical exertion. Signs and symptoms of asthma include the following:
- Tightness in chest
- Difficulty filling lungs
- Low tolerance for physical exercise
Many of these symptoms can be caused by other ailments (such as allergies), but you should consider being tested by a doctor regardless. Allergies often act as asthma triggers, making it a dual problem.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Asthma?
To determine whether or not you have asthma, your doctor will probably ask you some medical questions, including about your family’s medical history. Asthma can be hereditary (though certainly not always), so knowing your family’s health history can indicate whether it’s a possibility for you.
The doctor will also ask about symptoms, triggers, exercise habits, etc. Once all of the basic questions have been answered, your doctor will perform a physical exam.
What is Included in an Asthma Test?
This exam will include an inspection of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat, as well as possible lung X-rays.
Once the physical exam is complete, the doctor will test your lungs using a series of breathing tests. If your lungs are underperforming, they will determine whether the source of the problem is asthma or something else.
It’s important to remember that there are different levels of asthma, so even if you are diagnosed, it may not be as severe as some other cases. Generally speaking, asthma severity ranges from 4 different levels:
Each requires a different level of treatment.
How do People with Asthma Monitor Their Condition?
Once you have been diagnosed with asthma, you must do everything you can to monitor and manage it. You can do this in multiple ways, but especially by developing a written asthma action plan.
An asthma action plan is a detailed diary that records symptoms, attacks, and other helpful information. Not only does it help you know what actions to take upon attack, but it also provides an accessible database for both you and your doctor.
Additionally, you can monitor your condition by performing lung tests at home. These tests inform you of any breathing problems you may have.
How Can You Test Your Lungs at Home?
Two primary lung tests can help you monitor your asthma.
A peak flow meter is a device that indicates an individual’s total lung capacity. After exhaling into the peak flow meter, an arrow points to a number, which becomes your peak flow rating. The more air your lungs can hold, the higher your rating will be.
A spirometry test measures your FEV1%, which refers to the amount of air you can forcefully exhale in one second. A score of 80% places you in the “average score” of other asthmatic individuals who share your sex, age, and size. In other words, an at-home spirometer indicates your “normal percentage” as well as how that percentage relates to others.
Another effective way to test your lungs is to count how many breaths you naturally take in 60 seconds. Investing in a portable lung-testing program is a great method of collecting data that can be saved for future doctor’s visits.