Spirometry tests play a large role in controlling and maintaining asthma. Whether mild or severe, data collected during spirometry testing can help doctors prescribe the best treatment plan for your asthma.
What Does a Spirometry Test Measure?
Although it is not the only lung test given by allergy and asthma doctors, spirometry is one of the more important for diagnosis and treatment. A spirometry test measures lung function by measuring both how much air you inhale, and how quickly you exhale.
The purpose of spirometry 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?
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. For ongoing treatment, your health professional might prescribe an at-home spirometry device for continual remote monitoring.
How is a Spirometry Test Taken?
When you perform a spirometry test at the doctor’s office, you will breathe through a tube that hooks into a spirometry machine. The doctor simply has 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 your healthcare provider, you may take some medication in-between “exam rounds” to see how it impacts your test results.
Overall, a spirometry test 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.
Remote Spirometry Testing
Your doctor may prescribe a portable spirometry device that connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone. Each day you will blow into the device and data is sent to a remote monitoring dashboard and reviewed by your healthcare provider. Data collection, over time, can show emerging patterns and in some instances, even help to predict an asthmatic episode.
Spirometry Terms You Should Know
Here are some terms you will probably hear from your healthcare provider if you are doing spirometry.
FVC (forced vital capacity)
This is essentially your lung capacity – the amount of air your lungs can hold.
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 could indicate an inflamed airway.
As already mentioned, your FEV1% refers to your lung capacity as compared to other individuals of the same height, weight, age, and sex. A score of 70-80% is considered average. (1)
Benefits of Taking a Spirometry Test
Now that you know what a spirometry test is, why should you take one? Spirometry provides numerous benefits for those with chronic lung conditions. Here are just some of the benefits of taking regular spirometry tests.
Notice changes in your lung health.
Since there is currently no cure for chronic lung diseases, it is extremely important that you proactively look for changes in your lung health. Whether positive or negative, consistently measuring your lung capacity allows you to see changes as they occur. If you wait until your next doctor’s visit to see whether your lung capacity has increased, decreased, or remained stationary, you might miss something important.
Stay on top of your lung health by taking spirometry tests every day to every other day. It only takes a moment, and it can make a huge difference.
Develop an action plan with the help of your doctor.
Spirometry provides the perfect avenue for you and your physician to get on the same page. Remote monitoring of your spirometry data by the doctor provides insight into your overall condition. You and your doctor can use your scores to develop a “lung health action plan,” which details the best course of action for maintaining your health.
Prevent triggers and flare-ups with important information
Did you know that taking spirometry tests can help you prevent flare-ups? While spirometry is not a cure in and of itself, it does provide some context for potential triggers.
For instance, if you are exposed to a new allergen, then take a lung test and discover a decrease in your lung capacity, chances are high that the allergen triggered a respiratory problem. By measuring your lung capacity regularly, you can collect enough data to effectively avoid triggers and cut down on symptoms.
Empower yourself against your lung condition
Many people with chronic diseases see no hope of getting better, so they simply give up. It is important to shift your mindset. Even if you cannot cure your lung condition, you can improve it.
Stay encouraged and empowered against your chronic disease by gaining the upper hand. Knowing exactly how your lung condition affects your body allows you to take it head-on, fighting to improve your situation.
(1) Clinic, the Cleveland (2010). Current clinical medicine 2010(2nd ed.). Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders. p. 8.