Every breath tells a story for asthma patients




Posted on February 27, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 27 at 5:47 PM

SOUTHLAKE — At the Texas Regional Asthma and Allergy Center in Southlake, every breath tells a story.

Robert Leavitt says his asthma is out of control.

A machine in the office uses fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) to measure airway inflammation, the major cause of asthma. The amount of nitric oxide in exhaled breath shows if airways are inflamed.

"I think it's huge," said Dr. Rene Leon, an asthma and allergy expert who says it has been many years since he has seen a breakthrough in asthma control.

A warm winter in North Texas may make for an early and severe allergy season. For no one is that worse news than asthmatics, for whom allergies often trigger a serious response.

For asthmatics, control of their disease can prevent a flare-up that results in complications — including hospitalization or even death.

High or low FeNO numbers, depending on the patient, may determine if patients are taking too much (or not enough) medication.

"It helps us determine whether they're taking their medications," Dr. Leon explained. "Whether we may be under-treating them because they have a lot of inflammation and also if they're stable; it's a good marker to see that we can back down on their medication safely."

He called the technology an important development in controlling asthma.

"The results can make a difference that I don't realize," Robert Leavitt said. He didn't realize what the FeNO numbers reflected: his asthma was acting up.

With some alterations to his medication doses, Leavitt's breath next time may tell a story about asthma control.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com