If you have found yourself wheezing lately you might be wondering if you have asthma? Asthma is the inflammation of the airways or bronchial tubes that leads to chest tightness and wheezing. Determining an asthma diagnosis should be performed by a physician because other conditions can mimic asthma. These conditions that produce wheezing and shortness of breath are just as important and dangerous and need to be addressed. Unless you are experiencing an acute attack and need to go to the doctor, you should start keeping a journal of your attacks so that you can give the doctor plenty of information before you go.
One of the criteria that is used in determining an asthma diagnosis is family history. If someone in your immediate family has ever been diagnosed with asthma or allergies this will increase the possibility that your new onset of wheezing could be asthma. Some people will experience asthma without any family history at all. A physician will review the patients current and past medical history as well as a physical examination. Special testing will be necessary to determine if the patient is actually experiencing symptoms related to asthma.
Another criteria used when determining an asthma diagnosis is the triggers that leads to shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. This is where you should begin creating a journal to become familiar with your triggers. Some triggers can include exercise, cold air, allergens, irritants, pollution, emotions, medicines, sulfites, and upper respiratory infections. Any time you experience wheezing and shortness of breath make a note of this information for your doctor appointment. Write down what you were doing prior to this episode. Write down the time of day that your symptoms occurred. Make a note of the temperature at the time. Was it cold outside or hot? What did you eat if your symptoms appeared after a meal. Are you under a lot of stress at this time. Keeping a journal will allow the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis and it will reveal your triggers to you. By doing this you will learn what sets your asthma off and you can anticipate an attack, or you can create measures to stave one-off.
There are many medical test that are performed when determining an asthma diagnosis. One of these test is known as spirometry or pulmonary function testing. Spirometry measures air flow and volume after a rapid forcefully expiration. Spirometry will determine correction of air flow after the administration of a bronchodilator during a repeat test. Spirometry is not accurate for children
Other medical testing used in determining an asthma diagnosis is bronchoprovocation testing, chest x-ray, sweat chloride test, barium swallow, and skin testing. These subsequent test will help identify or rule out other conditions that may be mimicking asthma. Being a Registered Respiratory Therapist for over 16 years I can assure you that there are many conditions that do mimic asthma. Getting diagnosis accurately and quickly will allow the patient the ability to get onboard with an asthma control plan that is right for them.