By FAMC Outpatient Nurses
Spirometry is a simple breathing test that measures airflow in and out of your lungs. If you have symptoms that could be a sign of asthma—like shortness of breath—you should have a spirometry test.
When you have asthma, the lining of your airway swells and the muscles get tight, causing the airways to narrow. You have trouble moving air out of your lungs. As a result, you may cough, wheeze, feel short of breath, or have tightness in your chest. Exercise or cold air may make the symptoms worse. However, those same symptoms can also be a sign of other lung problems, such as a common cold, bronchitis, or pneumonia. They can even be symptoms of heart disease and other diseases.
The treatment for asthma is very different from the treatment for pneumonia or heart disease. A spirometry test can confirm whether you have asthma or another disease and helps your healthcare provider decide on your treatment. A spirometry test can also show how well your treatment is working and medicine adjustments can be made based on the results.
Many people who need a spirometry test never have one. Some healthcare providers only rely on symptoms to decide whether a patient has asthma or another disease. If your doctor assumes you have asthma without giving you a spirometry test, you could be taking asthma drugs when you don’t need them. On the other hand, you and your doctor might assume the cause of your symptoms is a mild problem, when in fact it is asthma. If your asthma is not treated, you could have severe asthma attacks. About nine people die from asthma attacks every day in the U.S. Untreated or poorly managed asthma can also cause scarring in the lungs, which can lead to COPD. Once the lungs are scarred, asthma medicines won’t work as well.