One of the best ways to maintain control over your asthma is to monitor your lung health. Several different lung tests exist to help you monitor your symptoms, triggers, lung capacity, and more. What kinds of tests can help you monitor your asthma? Let’s take a closer look.
Benefits of Continuous Lung Testing
First, let’s discuss the benefits of continuous lung testing. Of course, it is important to diagnose your lung condition through proper testing at the beginning. However, is it really necessary to keep taking asthma tests once you know you have it? Consistent lung testing provides the following benefits to your health and lifestyle.
- Indicates an increase or decrease in lung capacity
- Connects flare-ups to possible triggers or events
- Provides important information for your doctor
- Helps you prevent attacks and flare-ups
- Identifies when your symptoms are the worst
- Encourages and empowers you to stay a step ahead of your asthma
- Helps you develop an efficient asthma attack action plan
Which Lung Tests Help Monitor Your Asthma?
It is important to understand the different types of lung tests as well as the advantages of each one. To effectively monitor your asthma, you should take the following tests.
1. Peak Flow
The purpose of a peak flow test is to measure your total lung capacity. To measure your peak flow, you close your lips around a device known as a peak flow meter, then exhale forcefully. The device uses arrows and numbers to indicate your peak flow rating. The higher your rating, the higher your lung capacity.
Consistently taking a peak flow test indicates your “danger zone” versus your “safe zone.” Understanding your normal lung capacity alerts you to potential problems if you suddenly begin dropping toward your danger zone.
“FeNO” stands for “fractional exhaled nitric oxide” and refers to the amount of nitric oxide in each breath you take. Your level of nitric oxide indicates whether or not your airways are inflamed, indicating whether or not you have asthma. FeNO tests are often used for the original asthma diagnosis, but they also help identify your asthma type. Additionally, feNO tests can be used to monitor improvements and setbacks with your lung condition.
Provocation tests work much the same as allergy tests. If it’s unclear whether or not you suffer from asthma, a provocation test places you under mild stress (either from an allergen or physical activity) and then monitors your reaction. Not only do provocation tests indicate whether or not you have asthma at all, but they also make it easier to see what your specific triggers are.
Like a peak flow meter, a spirometer measures your lung capacity. However, it measures the amount of air you can exhale in one second, not just in total. To take a spirometry test at home, you inhale, then exhale as powerfully and forcefully as possible. The spirometer provides you with a percentage known as FEV1%. This percentage compares your one-second exhalation to others of the same sex, age, and size.
Consistent spirometry is extremely beneficial to asthma monitoring. It indicates your relative lung health compared to others, how your percentage may vary due to different trigger exposures, and how your overall lung health is faring from day-to-day.