The first step to getting bronchitis diagnosed is to see your family physician or family pediatrician. Bronchitis is a relatively common illness, so your family physician should be able to make an accurate diagnoses. Information about symptoms, medical history, recent colds, and whether or not you smoke or have been exposed to irritating substances are all relevant to a diagnosis. Of course, the severity of your coughs, and how often you cough, will be of particular interest to your doctor.
Your doctor will probably begin the exam with a medical history. S/He will ask specific questions about symptoms such as:
With this information, and your general medical history, your doctor may then order a physical exam. Your doctor might want to determine your oxygen levels by using a finger- or toe-attached sensor, for example. Or make an examination of expectorated mucus. Finally, s/he may listen to the lungs using a stethoscope.
After a physical exam your doctor may recommend further testing, particularly if your doctor wants to determine if you have chronic bronchitis. Possible tests include:
Blood tests - Blood gas measurement tests are used to determine the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood stream. These are typically ordered when a person has shortness of breath. If you have a chronic problem, and are placed on oxygen therapy each day, then you may have this test taken several times to determine the effectiveness of treatment.
Chest X-Ray - Use of a chest x-ray may be necessary in order to determine if any scarring has taken place in the lungs, or how extensive scarring is.
Lung function tests - Also called a spirometry test, lung function tests measure pulmonary function (lung functioning) by measuring the amount of air in your lungs and the rate blow this area over a certain period of time. You may do this by breathing into a machine while sitting into a sealed box that measures pressure. Or, you may breathe nitrogen or helium while sitting in this same device (body plethysmograph).
After your doctor makes a diagnosis of either acute or chronic bronchitis, treatment can begin. To learn more about treatment options of acute and chronic bronchitis, read here for more bronchitis symptoms treatment information.