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British Lung Foundation
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Spirometry testing - what to expect?

Hi all,

I've been suffering from bronchospasms since April last year when the allergy season started. Gradually they have been getting worse and I was eventually diagnosed with asthma and prescribed inhalers.

Unfortunately the rescue inhaler does not give 100% relief and I'm a little worried that it might be something more sinister than asthma - as if asthma wasn't serious enough! My GP refused to send me for allergy testing or refer me to a chest specialist until I tried the inhalers so I just carried on with life.

The problem is that the bronchospasms last for several days (I'm currently going through one) and I have taken time off work and it is worrying me. I don't feel like I'm getting the right treatment from my GP so I went back today to voice my concerns and finally they are doing a spirometry test at the surgery, followed by a full blood count and a thyroid test just in case.

All this time they could've done a spirometry test at the surgery and they made me suffer for almost a year with a treatment that gives little relief.

What can I expect from this test and will it definitely distinguish between asthma and some other lung condition?

Thanks! Sara x

14 Replies

Hello Sara, That doesn't sound like very good service! Firstly I would recommend that you telephone the BLF helpline (Click on the red balloon in the corner) - they will be able to give you more accurate advise about the spirometry test and results etc. and might be able to help you deal with the doctor!

My husband has severe COPD and as I understand it, the spirometry test is a definitive COPD test. In my husbands case, it is the expulsion of air that causes him a problem. The machine is pretty straightforward - an electronic peak flow! You are asked to breath in as deeply as you and then breath out as hard and long as you can into a mouthpiece. The machine records the results. If I remember correctly it is the best of 3.

For my husband the definitive result is the FEV1% which shows a percentage of lung function in my husbands case 27%. Don't panic, its not as bad as it sounds! Please talk to the helpline I am sure they will be able to help you. Take care, TAD xxx



Thanks for your speedy response and your time explaining the test!

I know - terrible service from my GP. I will call the BLF helpline as advised.

Thanks again! Sara x


What are bronchospasms please?


Sounds like we have the same doctors it took 2 years for me and that was with a letter from my cardiologist stating his concerns with my breathing. My test was in 2 stages on the day one with out inhalers and then a number of squirts with the inhalers though a spacer or max effect a short wait and the test again to see what difference there is.

In my case I then had to see a specialist to have a full lung function test and some other minor things to see my carbon dioxide etc.

My tip on Asthma is try and self calm your breathing with controlled breaths without panicking (I know it is easier said than done but it can be done with time)

Be Well


Thank you for the info on the test - I hope they don't make me have more than 2 squirts of the blue inhaler as any more than that increases my heart rate and the intensity of its beats making me feel awful!

Regarding the breathing, I have downloaded a breathing exercise app but when you're in the middle of an attack is so difficult to keep calm!

Thanks, Sara

P.s. How do these doctors get trained? I thought they are meant to be empathic rather than dismissive.


They have been spot on with my heart problems but have put all my other problems down to my heart. Even though I had asthma for most of my life before the RLD and hypertension :(


Sorry to hear you waited so long for a proper diagnosis :( at least you're getting proper treatment now.

Have a lovely weekend!


Only problem now is my lung specialist has stated I have a pacemaker fitted but I do not yet, maybe sometime this year?


the short answer no spiro tests lung function and volume capacity . i have about three a year nothing to worry about besides asthma is not the end of the world


Thanks! Sara :)


Being given a Spirometry test suggests that it could be Emphysema or a Bronchial related problem, as Spirometry measures the expulsion of air from the lungs. With Asthma the problem is the intake of air.

If it is Emphysema, it is, in my opinion and experience, much less of a worry than Asthma.

The main thing to do is keep using the inhalers and it is likely you'll contain the problem as I have been able to do for some 25 yrs.

Incidentally, I'd change your GP for one who is more sympathetic to the problem and had more up-to-date knowledge of the subject. Believe me ignorance of modern medicine is not a new phenomenon.

Good Luck,


Hi doublecee,

Nice explanation in the difference between emphysema and asthma. I had it all wrong - I thought the problem with asthma was on the exhalation (mine is on breathing in)

Whatever the problem is, the main thing is that I will finally get the right preventative treatment for the right condition.

I have been so poorly and very disappointed with the treatment by my GP that I was looking at going private. Unfortunately I don't have BUPA and it would have cost me £700 for initial tests and consultations, and who knows what more for the follow ups. No need to do it if I pay my due on taxes and NI!

Thanks again,



You can simply change your GP.

Go to the surgery you wish to join and speak to one of the reception staff.

Changing GPs is that easy.

Any problems, the C.A.B. are the place to seek further advice.

Let me know how you get on.

Take Care,



Will keep you all up to date. :) Cheers, Sara


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