Diagnosing asthma in adults
A clinical definition of asthma in adults
Asthma is defined clinically as the combination of variable respiratory symptoms (e.g. wheeze, shortness of breath, cough and chest tightness) and excessive variation in lung function.
There is no single reliable test ('gold standard') and there are no standardised diagnostic criteria for asthma.
The diagnosis of asthma is based on:
- physical examination
- considering other diagnoses
- documenting variable airflow limitation.
In some patients, observing a response to treatment may help confirm the diagnosis, but lack of response to bronchodilators or to inhaled corticosteroids does not rule out asthma.
Figure. Steps in the diagnosis of asthma in adults Please view and print this figure separately: http://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/figure/show/4
- The guidance in this section generally also applies to older adolescents.
In this section
History, physical examination and lung function testing in the investigation of asthma-like symptoms in adults and adolescents
Considering alternative diagnoses in adults and adolescents
Making the diagnosis
Considerations and criteria for the diagnosis of asthma in adults and adolescents
Reviewing the response to treatment to help confirm the diagnosis in adults and adolescents
When to consider further investigations, including tests of airway hyperresponsiveness or airway inflammation, allergy tests and imaging, in the investigation of asthma symptoms in adults and adolescents