Physical examination for asthma

Asthma usually is diagnosed based on your history of symptoms, a physical exam, lung function tests, and laboratory tests. Unless you are having symptoms, the physical exam will not show signs of asthma. Your health professional will examine your nose, mouth, throat, and sinuses (upper respiratory system); ears; chest; and skin. Your health professional will also:

  • Examine your nose for signs of increased nasal drainage, swelling inside the nose, and mucus-producing tissues that project into the nose (nasal polyps).
  • Examine your throat for signs of drainage, indicating inflammation and infection in your sinuses (sinusitis).
  • Listen to your chest for wheezing, indicating blockage of airflow in the airways.
  • Check for rapid or shallow breathing. He or she also will listen to your breathing for prolonged, forceful exhaling and a high-pitched sound (stridor) heard only when inhaling, which may indicate reduced airflow in the windpipe (trachea).
  • Examine your chest for signs that you are using your chest muscles to breathe (the skin between, above, and under the ribs collapses inward with each breath).
  • Listen to your heart for rapid heartbeat and signs of heart problems related to difficulty breathing.
  • Examine your fingers for the absence of an angle at the nail and rounding of the fingertips (clubbing), sometimes seen in people with other lung diseases.
  • Examine your skin for signs of an allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema). People with allergies are more likely than other people to develop asthma.

Last Updated: April 21, 2009

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