Asthma Mom’s Glossary of Specialist & Test Terms

Next-to-last installment of the asthma glossary. As always, see the tab above for the whole thing.

Allergist – specialist in the allergy and asthma fields. Allergists conduct allergy tests, administer sensitivity shots, and prescribe medications for allergies and asthma. While allergists have extensive training in asthma, they are not lung specialists the way pulmonologists are. For that reason, they may be most effective in treating allergen-triggered asthma. Also called an allergist-immunologist.

Gastroenterologist – specialist who examines, diagnoses, and treats disorders of the digestive system. Some asthma patients also have gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) and see this type of doctor.

Lung Diffusion Capacity Test (DLCO for Diffusing Capacity of the Lung for Carbon Monoxide) – a PFT that measures how much oxygen passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The test requires a patient to empty out the lungs with a deep exhale, inhale completely and then hold breath, and then exhale completely. During the final exhale, a technician measures the gas blown out to determine the amount that passed into the bloodstream during the inhalation.

Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs) – range of tests a pulmonologist will conduct to determine asthma severity and treatment. The tests measure the ability of the patient�s lungs to inhale, exhale, and diffuse oxygen into the bloodstream. Lung diffusion capacity and spirometry are PFTs.

Pulmonologist – specialist of lungs and lung disorders, including asthma. Patients with asthma not triggered by allergies usually see a pulmonologist rather than an allergist. These specialists usually receive training in pulmonology and critical care after medical school, making them the most popular choice for treating persistent or severe asthma.

Pulse oximetry – fingertip sensor that uses a patient’s pulse to measure the level of oxygen in the blood. Doctors may also test pulse ox levels through the earlobe or (with babies) the toe. Oximetry measures the oxygen diffused into the blood from the air breathed in, not the actual rate of breathing. This test is usually administered in a critical setting like a hospital. Doctors use oximetry to help determine if a patient needs oxygen therapy during a very severe flare or as a result of asthma-induced pneumonia.

Spirometry – PFT that indicates how well a patient can exhale into a mouthpiece connected to a spirometer. The spirometer measures the amount and rate of air breathed out, providing a good indication of severity of obstructive pulmonary diseases like asthma.

More pulmonary function tests exist than the ones listed above. I’ve included some of the more common ones.

This is part of the asthma glossary which I compiled for myself and originally published as BellaOnline’s asthma editor. Because the entire list is so long, I arranged the definitions into mini-glossaries by subject, and I’ll post each section over the next few weeks. When I’m done, you’ll be able to read the entire glossary through the tab above or find the mini-sections through the Asthma Glossaries category in the right sidebar.

I hesitate to use the word comprehensive here. That’s a pretty big word. What I’ll say, instead, is this glossary feels comprehensive to me. As with everything else I write on this blog, I don’t claim expert knowledge so much as I pass along what helped me, in case it might help you.

6 responses to “Asthma Mom’s Glossary of Specialist & Test Terms”

  1. You and your readers may be interested in my post on the phasing out of the old asthma inhalers on my blog at

  2. freadom says:

    Cool. You just reminded me I have had an idea about a post about spirometry I wanted to write. As soon as I’m done ranting about stupid people smoking aroudn their kids I will complete this task. Well, if I get time that is. Sometimes I say I’m going to do something and it’s three months by the time I get there. Thanks.

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