Lung function tests include a variety of tests that check how well the lungs work. The most basic test is spirometry. This test measures the amount of air the lungs can hold. The test also measures how forcefully one can empty air from the lungs.
A nurse or doctor will use a spirometry to diagnose a number of lung conditions, including:
- Asthma: The long-term inflammation, swelling and narrowing of the airways.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): A group of lung conditions that narrow the airways and create difficulties with emptying the lungs of air.
- Cystic fibrosis: A hereditary condition in which the lungs and digestive organs become clogged with dense, sticky mucus.
- Pulmonary fibrosis: The buildup of scar tissue in the air sacs of the lung, leading to poor oxygenation of the blood.
A doctor will use the spirometry to monitor a person’s progress as part of treatment for a chronic lung condition. It can help to determine the impact of any medications, including how they are controlling the condition.
Previous or current smokers should be tested, as well as people more than 40 years of age. Those exposed to lung-harming substances in their workplace, such as fumes, should consider checking their pulmonary health this way as well.