Study: Physical, breathing exam best way to diagnose asthma

Asthma affects about 8 percent of adults in the United States, leading to 1.8 million hospitalizations and 10.5 million doctor visits each year.
By Amy Wallace  |  July 18, 2017 at 4:12 PM
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July 18 (UPI) -- University of Texas researchers have determined that effective treatment of asthma must include a physical, breathing exams and a review of health history.

Nearly 8 percent of adults in the United States are diagnosed with asthma. The new study, published July 18 in JAMA, analyzed the best methods to diagnose and treat the condition, with researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch, or UTMB, finding that both tests and following health history is most effective for patients.

"When a patient comes in who may have asthma, it's important for providers to learn their health history, conduct a spirometry breathing test and a physical exam," Dr. William Calhoun, UTMB professor in the department of internal medicine, pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine division, said in a press release.

"Once diagnosed, the provider should give the patient a questionnaire during each office visit to learn more about how well their asthma symptoms are controlled and how good they perceive their quality of life. Spirometry testing should be repeated every one to two years if the patient's symptoms haven't changed."

An asthma action plan, which is a written document detailing the signs and symptoms of asthma and how to treat it, is also an vital part of treatment.

"The goals of asthma treatment are to reduce the patient's symptoms, help ensure that they can maintain their normal activities, perform well on pulmonary function tests and minimize asthma associated risks such as future asthma attacks and medication side effects," Jennifer McCracken, UTMB assistant professor in the department of internal medicine, division of allergy and immunology, said.

"Because of the complex nature of asthma, providers need to approach patients with a guideline-based plan that takes environmental triggers such as allergens, viruses and occupational irritants into consideration as well the strengths and weaknesses of the medication that they are using in order to provide a well-tailored action plan."

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