Asthma Check Up

How to Check Asthma? Important Diagnosing Tests for Asthma

Have you seen any person struggling to get some breathe along with chest tightness, wheezing and coughing? Well, you might not know but this could be an asthma attack. It is frightening to note that millions of people in the world suffer from asthma – the intensity of the problem can differ from one person to another. Also, the problem is constantly aggravating globally, stress and pollution being the main culprits behind the same. Patients suffering from this chronic lung condition should get regular asthma check up done so that the condition remains under control and does not aggravate.

Initial Stages of Asthma Diagnosis

When causes and symptoms of asthma like shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and chest tightness occur frequently, it is recommended not to ignore the same and get proper check up done. The doctor will initially review the symptoms and then go through the family history and medical history of the patient thoroughly. Along with checking for other lung conditions, the doctor will also ask the patient about allergies that she/he might have. All the symptoms should be told to the doctor in detail along with mentioning the frequency at which they take place. Along with carrying out general physical examination, the doctor will recommend carrying out different tests and investigations to be sure that the problem is asthma. Along with this, the intensity of asthma can also be adjudged with these investigations.

Common Tests and Investigations that are part of Asthma Check Up used for Diagnosing Asthma

There are many tests that are used for diagnosing asthma successfully. Some of the most important ones that are part of asthma check up are as follows:

Imaging Tests

In the very first place, the doctor will ask the patient to get chest X-ray done. Digital X-rays can help in locating problems in the lungs if any. For more detailed report, high resolution computerized tomography (CT) of lungs and nose cavities are done. This test can help in identifying any kind of infection or any structural abnormality, which can increase breathing problems significantly.

Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT)

There are different procedures in pulmonary function tests (PFTs), which help in diagnosing lung problems successfully. The common lung function tests that are carried out include:

Exhaled nitric Oxide Test: Nitric oxide is produced in the lungs and is an inflammation indicator. Asthma is a kind of inflammatory condition of the lungs and this test helps in proper diagnosis and management of asthma. To carry out the test, one needs to breathe into a tiny, handheld device for approximately 10 seconds at steady pace. The amount of nitric oxide in the air that you breathed out is calculated.

Spirometry: This is probably one of the simplest tests that are used for finding out if you have asthma. This is a breathing test, which helps in measuring how fast and how much air you can blow out of your lungs successfully. The amount of airway obstruction that you have can be calculated with the help of this test. Before starting this test, the patient will be given to inhale a bronchodilator like albuterol, which is medicine acting for short while. The airways expand on using the bronchodilator so that air can pass through successfully and freely. Spirometry is done from time to time for measuring the intensity of asthma and the doctor can decide the asthma check up treatment plan accordingly.

Challenge Tests: Challenge tests are done when spirometry and other tests don’t show significant results in favor of asthma. Challenge tests are of two types – with mannitol and with methacholine. When these components are inhaled, airways narrow and spasm if the person has asthma check up. Mannitol dry powder inhaler or methacholine aerosol mist is used for the testing after and before the lung functioning test. When lung function drops considerably during the challenge, the test is regarded as positive. A bronchodilator is used at the end of the test for bringing back the situation to normal.

Sputum Eosinophils:

Discharge during coughing is collected for this test. In the mixture of mucus (sputum) and saliva, certain while blood cells (eosinophils) are searched for. Eosinophils are present when there is some kind of infection or symptom development in the body. When stained with a red colored dye (eosin), eosinophils become prominently visible.
Along with the above mentioned diagnostic tests and investigations, many doctors carry out allergy tests on patients for identifying the triggering forces behind the asthmatic attacks in individuals. Once the physician is sure of the symptoms of asthma, proper treatment for the same can be started and the ailment can be kept under control.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad