To evaluate someone with the symptoms of asthma we are lucky to have great, easy to do, tools.
A Pulmonary function test can be performed. This involves simply breathing into a computer. The volumes exhaled over time are measured, recorded and compared to normals — which are standardized by sex, age, race, and height.
If the Pulmonary function test displays low volumes, or a pattern specific for asthma, a nebulizer treatment may be given. This is usually nebulized albuterol. Albuterol is a bronchodilator.
The Pulmonary function test will then be repeated and if there is a significant increase in lung volumes the diagnosis of asthma, or reversible bronchoconstriction is certain.
Another newer test, which is proving to be extremely useful measures exhaled Nitric Oxide. This has been found to correlate with the amount of inflammation in the lungs.
Based on symptoms and the results of these tests, an initial medication regimen can be determined. Monitoring over time will most likely allow that regimen to be changed or modified