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How Do Doctors Diagnose Asthma

After Your Asthma Diagnosis

Diagnosing Asthma

The good news is there are lots of effective medicines available to help manage your symptoms. With the right treatment plan and good support from your GP you could stay symptom free.

Here are some things you can do straight away to get off to a good start:

Use an asthma action plan

An asthma action plan is a simple tool to help you manage your asthma well. You fill it in with your GP or asthma nurse.

It tells you exactly how to manage your asthma every day and what to do if symptoms get worse. Evidence suggests that using one means youre less likely to end up in hospital with an asthma attack.

Once you’ve got your own, personalised, asthma action plan, take it along to all your appointments to make sure its always up to date.

Know how to use your inhaler

Using an asthma inhaler can be tricky to get right even if youve been using one for some time. Make sure you start using yours in the best way from the beginning. Some inhalers are best used with a spacer.

Your GP should show you how to use your inhaler and spacer in the right way, but you can also ask the pharmacist to show you when you pick up your prescription.

We have some inhaler videos too which you can watch at home.

Go to all your asthma check-ups

When youre first diagnosed, you may need to see your GP or asthma nurse a few times to check how well your treatment is working. You can also talk about how youre coping with your asthma.

If you smoke, get support to quit

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

As with asthma, people with COPD may experience coughing and shortness of breath.

But morning coughing with phlegm is more characteristic of COPD. In contrast, asthma tends to cause worsening symptoms at night, and may be accompanied by wheezing and tightness in your chest.

Its also possible to have both asthma and COPD. Contact a doctor if youre experiencing symptoms of either condition.

Symptoms Like Coughing Wheezing And Feeling Breathless Could Mean You Have Asthma See Your Gp To Confirm A Diagnosis Of Asthma And Start Treatment

Find out why its important to get a diagnosis so you can start treatment for asthma, how asthma is diagnosed, and how you can take positive steps to stay symptom free after a diagnosis.

  • tightness in the chest
  • feeling short of breath.

Not everyone with asthma will get all of these. For example, not everyone wheezes. But if youre experiencing one or more of these symptoms, make an appointment with your GP.

Most people with well-managed asthma only have symptoms now and then. But some people have symptoms a lot of the time, particularly the small percentage of people with severe asthma.

A key thing with asthma is that symptoms come and go – you may not have them all the time.

Why its important to see your GP to confirm a diagnosis

If youve noticed asthma-like symptoms, dont ignore them. Make an appointment with your GP or an asthma nurse as soon as you can.

The quicker you get diagnosed, the quicker you can get the right medicines to help you deal with your symptoms.

Asthma is a long-term condition that needs regular preventer treatment. If its not treated, it could lead to an asthma attack which can be life-threatening.

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How Is Asthma In Children Diagnosed

Asthma is often difficult to diagnose in infants. However, the disease can often be diagnosed in older children based on the childs medical history, symptoms, and physical examination, and on certain tests:

  • Medical history and symptom description: The healthcare provider will ask about any history of breathing problems your child may have, as well as a family history of asthma, allergies, a skin condition called eczema, or other lung diseases. Be sure to describe your childs symptoms in detail, including when and how often these symptoms have been occurring.
  • Physical exam: During the physical examination, the doctor will listen to your childs heart and lungs.
  • Tests: Many children will have a chest X-ray and pulmonary function tests, which measure the amount of air in the lungs and how fast it can be exhaled . The results will help the provider determine how severe the asthma is. Children younger than 5 are usually unable to perform pulmonary function tests, so doctors rely heavily on history, symptoms, and physical examination in making the diagnosis.

The doctor may order other tests to help identify particular asthma triggers, including allergy skin testing and blood tests.

Additional Tests: Ruling Out Conditions Other Than Asthma

Learning if you have asthmaTo learn if you have asthma ...

If your doctor suspects that you have a condition in addition to or other than asthma, you may need tests such as:

  • X-ray or computerized tomography imaging of your chest
  • CT scans of your sinuses
  • Blood tests
  • Gastroesophageal reflux assessment
  • Examination of the phlegm in your lungs for signs of a viral or bacterial infection

Your doctor may also want to see whether you have other conditions that often accompany asthma and can worsen symptoms. These include:

  • Heartburn
  • Hay fever
  • Sinusitis

Your doctor may also perform allergy tests. These can be skin tests, blood tests or both. Although not used to diagnose asthma, allergy tests can help identify an allergic condition, such as hay fever, that may be causing your symptoms or worsening existing asthma.

Sometimes, diagnosing the cause of breathing problems is a challenge. It can be difficult to differentiate asthma from other conditions particularly in young children.

When asthma coexists with another condition that affects breathing, it can further complicate diagnosis.

Even if a diagnosis isn’t certain, your doctor may prescribe medications or other treatment to see what helps. It may take time and patience to get the correct diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment.

© 1998-2019 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research . All rights reserved.Terms of use.

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Question : Do Your Symptoms Get Worse When You Go Out In The Garden Or Are Near Pets

You answered yes.

You answered no.

  • A worsening of asthma symptoms is known as an asthma exacerbation, or more commonly, as an asthma attack. These are induced by triggers stimulus that cause increased severity of symptoms.
  • Triggers are often something airborne that inflame the bronchi when they come into contact with them.
  • Common triggers include allergens such as pollen, pet hair, or dust, but an asthma attack can also be triggered by non-allergic reactions, such as to cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, certain foods or medicines, or an abrupt change in the weather.
  • An attack can even be brought on by stress a number of changes in the body take place when were under pressure, which can lead to increased chest tightness and heavy breathing.
  • The body also releases chemicals in periods of stress, such as leukotrienes and histamines, which can cause inflammation of the airways.

What Causes Asthma In Infants And Toddlers

We still do not know what causes some people to get asthma. If a child has a family history of asthma or allergies, a specific allergy or had a mother who smoked during pregnancy, they have a higher chance of getting asthma early in life.

A respiratory virus, an illness that occurs in the lungs, is one of the most common causes of asthma symptoms in children 5 years old and younger. Although both adults and children experience respiratory infections, children have more of them. Some preschool children get viral infections often. At least half of children with asthma show some sign of it before the age of 5. Viruses are the most common cause of acute asthma episodes in infants 6 months old or younger.

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Restrictive Pattern On Spirometry

With a restrictive spirometry pattern your FVC is less than the predicted value for your age, sex and size. This is caused by various conditions that affect the lung tissue itself, or affect the capacity of the lungs to expand and hold a normal amount of air. Conditions that cause scarring of the lungs give restrictive patterns on spirometry. Some physical deformities that restrict the expansion of the lungs can also cause a restrictive defect. Your FEV1 is also reduced but this is in proportion to the reduced FVC. So, with a restrictive pattern the ratio of FEV1/FVC is normal.

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Will Medicine Help Me Sleep Better

Diagnosing Asthma: Mild, Moderate, and Severe

Yes, if you have nighttime asthma symptoms. Many people wake up with asthma symptoms such as coughing or wheezing. You can control nighttime symptoms by taking asthma medicines as directed by your doctor.

Removing triggers where you sleep may help you sleep better. Many people are allergic to dust mites and mold found in bedding materials. Using mattress or pillow encasements can help contain those allergens. Dehumidifiers can also be helpful to reduce the humidity in your home that dust mites and mold need to exist. Using air cleaners in your bedroom may also help reduce your exposure to allergens and irritants .

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Can Asthma Be Cured

There is currently no known cure for asthma, but with proper diagnosis and asthma management it is fully possible for people with asthma to live healthy, active and symptom-free lives.

There is still much research that needs to be done to fully understand how to prevent, treat and cure asthma. Asthma Canadas National Research Program is committed to supporting leading asthma researchers and graduate student researchers working to expand our knowledge and one day, unlock a cure.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Asthma

Asthma is a lung condition that causes shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. It can be triggered by several things, including airborne allergens and physical exertion. Signs and symptoms of asthma include the following:

  • Coughing
  • Low tolerance for physical exercise
  • Wheezing

Many of these symptoms can be caused by other ailments , but you should consider being tested by a doctor regardless. Allergies often act as asthma triggers, making it a dual problem.

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If You Have Asthma Your Diagnosis Will Include Severity Of Your Condition

If you have asthma, your follow-up treatment and long-term prognosis can vary significantly depending on the severity of your condition, its cause, your overall health, and many other variables.

When it comes to the severity of asthma, doctors usually break asthma down into four categories:

  • Mild Intermittent Your asthma symptoms show up less than twice a week, and you wake up on fewer than two nights a month because of your symptoms.
  • Mild Persistent You have symptoms two or more days each week, and you wake up three to four nights a month.
  • Moderate Persistent You have symptoms every day, and you wake up one or more nights a week.
  • Severe Persistent You have symptoms during the day, every day, and you wake up every night due to asthma.

Depending on the severity of your asthma, treatments could range from inhalers to oral or intravenous corticosteroid medication or even surgery.

Its important to note that asthma can either be severe because symptoms are persistent all the time or because symptoms are difficult to control either the individual has problems adhering to treatment and symptoms go mismanaged or because symptoms are so severe that even with medication and other treatments, symptoms are difficult to control.

Do Asthma Medicines Have Side Effects

Diagnosing Asthma: Mild, Moderate, and Severe

Yes. All medicines have side effects. Tell your doctor how you are responding to the treatment and if you have any side effects. Follow up often with your doctor so you can control your asthma with the least amount of medicines and with the fewest side effects.

Medical Review: June 2021 by S. Allan Bock, MD Maureen George, PhD, RN, AEC, FAAN and Sumita Khatri, MD, MS

References1. Bonds, R., Asawa, A. and Ghazi, A. . Misuse of medical devices: a persistent problem in self-management of asthma and allergic disease. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 114, pp.74-76.e2.

Asthma Action Plan

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What To Expect When You Visit The Doctor

Your doctor may ask whether you have any family history of asthma, eczema or hay fever.

In children, doctors assess the severity of the asthma based on the pattern and frequency of the symptoms.

Lung function tests are difficult to perform in children younger than 5 years and so are usually only used to diagnose and assess severity in children 5 years and older.

It is recommended that a paediatrician or paediatric respiratory specialist diagnose and manage asthma in infants under 12 months. If your infant is wheezing your doctor should refer to you one of these specialists.

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How Is A Spirometry Test Performed

  • You will sit upright.
  • You will be given a clip to place on your nose.
  • You will be given a plastic mouthpiece connected to a spirometer.
  • You will place the mouthpiece in your mouth and create a tight seal with your lips.
  • You will take a deep breath in and then blow out as hard and fast as you can until you cant blow out any more.
  • You will do the test several times, until the best result is recorded.
  • You will take some puffs of a bronchodilator medication.
  • After 15 minutes, you will do the test again, to see if the medication helps your breathing. If your results are much better after taking the medication, you may have asthma.
  • Your healthcare provider will explain your results.

    Some people who have asthma will have a normal spirometry test. If this is the case, you may be asked to take another test to confirm the diagnosis of asthma, like a methacholine challenge or exercise test.

    *Infants and small children under 5-6 years old usually cannot do the spirometry test. Young childrens asthma is typically diagnosed based on signs and symptoms , family history, history of allergies, and their response to asthma medications.

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    What Are Other Conditions A Doctor Might Test For In Someone With Asthma

    There are some medical conditions that might make asthma harder to treat and control. Two of these conditions are sinusitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly called GERD and known as heartburn. If you are diagnosed with asthma, your doctor might also test you for these conditions so that they can be treated.

    Sinusitis, also called sinus infection, is an inflammation or swelling of the sinuses due to infection. When the sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, bacteria grow, causing infection and inflammation. Your doctor might order a special X-ray, called a CT scan, to evaluate your sinuses if he or she suspects an infection. Once acute sinusitis is diagnosed, you will be treated with antibiotics for at least 10 to 12 days.

    How To Get A Diagnosis

    How is asthma diagnosed?

    The first thing to do is book an appointment. Your GP or an asthma nurse can help confirm or rule out a diagnosis of asthma.

    They can do this by:

    • talking about your symptoms, what sets them off, and when you get them
    • asking if anyone else in the family has asthma
    • finding out if you, or anyone in your family, have other allergies, like hay fever
    • testing how your lungs are working
    • listening to your chest for any sounds of wheezing
    • prescribing asthma treatments to see if they make a difference
    • considering any other symptoms that might suggest something else.

    Asthma tests

    Alongside a full clinical assessment by your GP, youll need some asthma tests to confirm or rule out asthma. Your GP can see how your lungs are working with tests like peak flow, spirometry, and FeNo .

    Your GP can usually perform these tests during the appointment, and you can see the results straight away. But you may need to do tests again on another day before your GP can confirm you have asthma.

    You may be given a peak flow meter to use at home for a couple of weeks. This is so you can record your own peak flow scores in a diary.

    When you take it back to your appointment, your GP or asthma nurse will be able to see a pattern of scores that could suggest asthma.

    Trying out asthma treatments

    Your GP or asthma nurse may prescribe asthma treatments to see if they help. This is sometimes called a trial of treatment.

    If your symptoms start to get better, it suggests you could have asthma.

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    Asthma Uk Is Here To Support You

    We have expert advice on how to manage your asthma well and what to do if you have an asthma attack.

    We also have lots of tips on living with asthma, from doing sports and going on holiday, to studying with asthma and having relationships.

    Explore our health advice web pages and . The more you know about your asthma, the better youll be able to work with your GP or asthma nurse to manage it well.

    Speak to someone about your asthma

    You can also call our Helpline on 00 222 5800 to speak to a respiratory nurse specialist. Or you can WhatsApp them on 0307378 606 728.

    You can ask them anything from symptoms and treatments to living life without asthma getting in the way.

    Next review due February 2024

    Will I Always Have To Take The Same Amount Of Medicine

    Not always. You will probably take more medicine when you begin treatment to get control of your asthma. Work with your doctor to learn which medicine control your asthma best and how much you need. Once your asthma is well-controlled, your doctor may be able to reduce the amount of medicine you take. The goal is to gain control of your asthma as soon as possible and then control it with as little medicine as possible. Once long-term anti-inflammatory therapy begins, your doctor should monitor you every one to six months. This is to see how your asthma medicines are working and if your asthma is well controlled.

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