Diagnosing asthma in an
individual patient is challenging for a number of reasons. Because asthma
attacks occur suddenly and for a short period of time, patients often go see a
doctor without showing any symptoms at all.
Furthermore, most of the
symptoms are nonspecific to asthma, meaning they are also symptoms for other
conditions, such as emphysema, bronchitis, or pneumonia. This makes an asthma
diagnosis tricky, especially when symptoms vary from person to person and even differ
from one attack to another in the same person.
At the Doctor's Office
As asthma is most often
diagnosed in children, you will likely visit your child’s pediatrician for
asthma screening. The doctor will use several factors to make an asthma
diagnosis. He or she will ask you several questions about your child’s medical
history and the nature of his or her symptoms and perform a routine physical
examination. Finally, your doctor will likely run one or more asthma tests—such
as a spirometry—for further evaluation and could refer you to a specialist who
focuses on lung function and breathing disorders.