Is it Really Asthma? Treating the characteristics of Asthma

Is it Really Asthma?

Treating the characteristics of Asthma

In Australia, approximately 2.7 million people have been diagnosed with asthma – 11% of the Australian population. However, recent research indicates that up to 1 in 3 asthma cases could be misdiagnosed due to ineffective means of diagnosing; conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may actually be the experienced condition. At North Brisbane Sleep and Thoracic, we provide lung function testing services, treating characteristics associated with asthma opposed to making diagnoses, to provide individualised care and inform general practitioners.

Asthma must be diagnosed using the correct procedures to ensure this is the actual condition the patient is experiencing.

Firstly, general practitioners should review the patient’s medical history, noting symptoms experienced, lifestyle choices such as smoking, presence of pets, medicine intake, and occupation. Then, a physical exam should be conducted, assessing the throat, nose and airways, monitoring breathing with a stethoscope, and investigating skin for allergic issues. To make an accurate diagnosis, a spirometry should first be conducted, followed by a FeNo test. These should be conducted by a specialist to assess lung function, as this assists in distinguishing between asthma and other similar conditions such as COPD. If these tests return a negative result, the next step will be peak flow monitoring in the practice.

The characteristics of asthma and COPD can overlap, and this is why a medical history review and physical examination are not enough to determine if a patient really has asthma. Symptoms experienced by individuals with either condition include: shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, exercise intolerance, and symptom variability. For this reason, the specialist will refocus on treating the characteristics of these conditions.

There are numerous ways to distinguish between asthma and COPD to ensure patients receive the correct diagnosis and treatment. The most objective measure of distinguishing between the two is through lung function testing, as the lungs function differently in each condition. For asthma, airflow limitation is usually reversible, but for COPD, the airflow limitation is not fully reversible. Patients with asthma typically have no reduction in gas transfer, whilst patients with COPD do.

To reach an accurate diagnosis, refer your patients for a spirometry, complex lung function and FeNo test at North Brisbane Sleep and Thoracic.

A specialist will conduct this test, and the results will be sent to your general practice; our specialist clinic focuses on distinguishing and treating characteristics opposed to diagnosing lung conditions. If the tests return positive, then the patient likely has asthma. If the tests are negative, the next step to an accurate diagnosis is peak flow monitoring, which assesses airway function.

Through identifying characteristics via lung function testing, our experienced team can reach optimal outcomes for patients, support correct treatment, and provide valuable information to general practitioners.