Spirometry tests play a large role in controlling and maintaining asthma. Whether mild or severe, it is important that your lung function is being tested regularly so that your breathing can be monitored. Proper asthma control keeps dangerous developments at bay and helps you and your doctor stay informed.
What Does a Spirometry Test Measure?
A spirometry test examines the function of your lungs by measuring both how much air you can inhale and how much you can exhale. It also measures how quickly you draw the air in. The purpose of this type of testing is to see if you are drawing in the correct amount of air based on your age, height, size, etc. If you aren’t, the doctor has to take steps to understand why.
When Will Your Doctor Order a Spirometry Test?
A spirometry exam will be given before you are diagnosed with asthma to determine if asthma is really the problem. Sometimes, breathing problems can be attributed to allergies or other ailments.
If you are diagnosed with asthma, it will also be given periodically for an indefinite amount of time to track your symptoms and monitor your breathing. Additionally, a doctor might order a spirometry exam before surgery or after a sudden surge of poor respiratory symptoms.
How is a Spirometry Test Taken?
To take the test, you will breathe through a tube that hooks into a spirometry machine at the doctor’s office. The doctor will simply have you take a deep breath and then exhale as hard and as quickly as you can. You will probably do this several times in a row to ensure that the results are accurate. Depending on the doctor, you may take some medication in-between “exam rounds” to see how it impacts your test results.
Overall, it will probably only take 10-15 minutes. The test isn’t exhausting, but you may feel a little lightheaded afterward from all the inhaling and exhaling.
Terms to keep in mind include the following:
1. FVC (forced vital capacity)
This is essentially your lung capacity – the amount of air your lungs can hold. This falls under the “inhalation” portion of the spirometry exam.
2. FEV1 (forced expiratory volume)
This is the amount of air you can release in a single second. Generally speaking, the higher the amount of air you can release, the healthier your lungs are. Low FEV ratings indicate an inflamed airway.