Asthma is a lung disease that causes the narrowing of the airways. People who have asthma have very sensitive airways that react to different triggers, which causes it to become difficult to breathe. When an asthmatic person comes in contact with their trigger, such as smoke, pet hair, perfumes, pollens, their airways begin to narrow and excess mucus is produced. The muscles in the airway tighten and in some cases spasm. This makes it hard for the person to breathe and causes a lack of oxygen in the body. Asthma can be mild or severe and is usually most common in children. If you suspect that you may have asthma it is best to get it diagnosed so that the correct medication and treatment can be delivered.
How is Asthma Diagnosed?
Diagnosing asthma is a process and involves a number of different steps. This first step is usually a visit to the doctor. The doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms , including how you are currently feeling and whether you are taking any anti-asthma medication. Generally the doctor will also gather information on your family history, medical history and whether you have any known allergies. The doctor may listen to your chest to check if there is any obstruction or if you are wheezing when you breathe. The doctor may also check the oxygen levels in your blood my applying a special machine to your finger.
If the doctor feels that you may have asthma they will usually conduct some lung function tests or refer you to another medical professional who can conduct the lung function tests. Often you will be asked to complete a spirometry and peak flow test. A spirometry test will ascertain your current lung capacity and whether or not it s being effected by asthma. You will be asked to blow as hard or long as you can into a mouthpiece connected to a machine. This machine gathers data about your lung capacity. The medical staff may then ask you to complete the test again after receiving a dose of asthma reliever medication. This will check to see if your lung capacity is improved by the medication.
Young children are often asked to keep a record of their peak flow rather than complete a spirometry. A peak flow meter is a tube that is used to measure how fast and hard you can exhale. The results are recorded over a few days to check the capacity of the lungs.
Once all this data has been collected your doctor and you can develop an asthma action plan that will help you to best manage your asthma and prevent any serious asthma attacks.