A breath of fresh air for asthma diagnosis
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