Skip to Content

Physical Exam for Asthma

Topic Overview

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 doctor will examine your nose, mouth, throat, and sinuses (upper respiratory system); ears; chest; and skin. Your doctor 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, which indicates inflammation and infection in your sinuses (sinusitis).
  • Listen to your chest for wheezing, which indicates 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.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised February 22, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.