A breath of fresh air for asthma di­ag­no­sis

The Jewish Chronicle - - JC SPECIAL -

AS MANY as 30 per cent (1.23 mil­lion) of UK pa­tients thought to have asthma have ac­tu­ally been mis­di­ag­nosed, says The Na­tional In­sti­tute for Clin­i­cal Ex­cel­lence. And more than four in five peo­ple who have the con­di­tion feel it is out of con­trol, ac­cord­ing to asthma UK. But this is set to change, with a new de­vice called Niox Vero.

A quick and easy test us­ing Niox Vero can ac­cu­rately pin­point frac­tional ex­haled ni­tric ox­ide (FeNO) levels in the breath (a biomarker of the con­di­tion) and help doc­tors make a more thor­ough as­sess­ment of the pres­ence of asthma and suit­able treat­ment.

“The faster we can ac­cu­rately di­ag­nose asthma, then the quicker and more suc­cess­fully we can treat it,” says Dr Rama Vancheeswaran, a res­pi­ra­tory con­sul­tant at Spire Bushey Hospi­tal, in Hert­ford­shire. “Just as im­por­tantly, we can also de­tect which pa­tients have been in­cor­rectly di­ag­nosed and so are not re­ceiv­ing the treat­ment they should be get­ting.”

Among con­di­tions com­monly mis­taken for asthma are post-in­fec­tive coughs, chronic coughs, gas­troe­sophageal re­flux dis­ease, vo­cal cord dys­func­tion, bronchiec­ta­sis, bron­chi­tis and em­phy­sema.

The asthma test, which can be car­ried out on any­one over the age of six, takes just six sec­onds for chil­dren and 10 sec­onds for adults.

“It mea­sures pre­cisely the ni­tric ox­ide levels in the breath, so we can make much bet­ter judge­ments about the treat­ments nec­es­sary — whether steroids should be pre­scribed or what in­halers would give the best re­sults.

“Cru­cially it al­lows us to bring the con­di­tion un­der con­trol quickly and ef­fec­tively which, in turn, means a bet­ter long-term out­come for the pa­tient.”

While ex­ter­nal fac­tors such as air pol­lu­tion are push­ing the num­ber of asthma suf­fer­ers to record levels, says Dr Vancheeswaran, be­ing able to make an ac­cu­rate and im­me­di­ate di­ag­no­sis will help doc­tors re­spond ef­fec­tively to the in­crease in peo­ple pre­sent­ing with pos­si­ble symp­toms.

LIV­ING WITH ASTHMA

Al­though there is no cure for asthma, there are many things you can do to con­trol symp­toms. Top of the list are stop­ping smok­ing and keep­ing chil­dren away from smoky en­vi­ron­ments.

Ex­perts from Asthma UK have this ad­vice for suf­fer­ers: “Giv­ing up smok­ing is vi­tal if you want to man­age your asthma and lower your risk of an asthma at­tack. If you have a child with asthma, be­ing in a smoke-free en­vi­ron­ment will make a big dif­fer­ence to how they man­age their symp­toms.”

It is also a good idea to make healthy changes to your life­style. If you do not al­ready do so, take reg­u­lar, mod­er­ate ex­er­cise such as walk­ing, cy­cling or swim­ming — but al­ways keep your re­liever in­haler with you when ex­er­cis­ing.

Healthy eat­ing can also help. Choose fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles and cut down on pro­cessed food. Main­tain­ing a healthy weight is also ben­e­fi­cial.

It also helps to be aware of your asthma trig­gers, so you can take steps to avoid or con­trol them.

Dr Vancheeswaran says: “Some trig­gers, such as air pol­lu­tion and weather con­di­tions, or even ill­nesses such as colds and flu, can be hard to avoid; oth­ers, such as dust mites, fun­gal spores and pet fur, can be con­trolled.

“How­ever, one thing that will help a suf­ferer more than any­thing else is tak­ing their med­i­ca­tion reg­u­larly and prop­erly.

“Make sure you know the right way to use in­halers or spac­ers. Your GP or surgery nurse can of­fer ad­vice.”

Take ad­vice from your GP or nurse on the proper use of in­halers

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