New technology helps doctors distinguish between allergies and asthma

It is peak allergy and asthma season, and thanks to the dry and warm summer, ragweed is even worse.

Some new technology is now helping patients breathe easier.

Dr. Deborah Gentile at West Penn Allegheny Health System uses FeNO (fractional exhaled nitric oxide) testing to diagnose and manage her patients.

“We’ll see many patients coming in complaining of shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. We’ll actually see more cue visits to the emergency room,” she said of fall allergy season.

A recent study ranked Pittsburgh fourth as “the most challenging place to live with asthma.”

Some 25 million Americans suffer from asthma.

“I thought originally I was just having allergies until I used the Niox machine, that showed that I had slight inflammation,” said Matt Bury, a patient.

Gentile uses the hand-held device to get a more accurate diagnosis for potential asthmatic patients.

Patients blow into the machine and it measures nitric oxide, a gas which is made during inflammation of asthma. This measurement lets Gentile determine whether it’s asthma or something else.

The test is quick and provides immediate information.

“The test is very simple to do,” said Gentile. “It’s non-invasive. It doesn’t hurt, and it actually helps us diagnose the problem and choose appropriate treatment, and then monitor the response.”

Bury is on the right medicine now and can breathe easier.

“Before I couldn’t go outside without doing an activity and having difficulty breathing,” he said. “Now the quality of life definitely improved.”

The FeNO test is covered by most insurance companies but you should check with yours before taking it.


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