21 September 2009

Breathing technique fights asthma

A new study is showing promise for reducing both the expense and suffering associated with chronic asthma.


A new study is showing promise for reducing both the expense and suffering associated with chronic asthma.

A four-week program to teach asthmatics how to better control their condition by changing the way they breathe was developed by Thomas Ritz and Alicia Meuret, from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, US, Psychology Department.

During an attack, sufferers tend to hyperventilate, breathing fast and deep against constricted airways to fight an overwhelming feeling of oxygen deprivation. This makes the problem worse by lowering the body's carbon dioxide levels, which restricts blood flow to the brain and can further irritate already hypersensitive bronchial passages.

Patients who "overbreathe" on a sustained basis risk chronic CO2 deficiencies that make them even more vulnerable to future attacks. Rescue medications that relieve asthma symptoms do nothing to correct breathing difficulties associated with hyperventilation.

Reverse overbreathing
As part of SMU's "Stress, Anxiety and Chronic Disease Research Program," Ritz and Meuret use their biofeedback-based Capnometry-Assisted Respiratory Training (CART) to teach asthma patients to normalise and reverse chronic overbreathing. A hand-held device called a capnometer measures the amount of CO2 exhaled. Using this device, patients learn how to breathe more slowly, shallowly and regularly.

CART techniques could have a positive impact on quality of asthma treatment even as they reduce the need for acute care, Ritz says.

Save time and money
"The research shows that this kind of respiratory therapy can limit both the severity and frequency of asthma attacks," he says. "That means fewer doctor visits and less frequent use of rescue medications, with the associated savings of both time and money."

And for those who count any year without a trip to the emergency room as a year with a good treatment outcome, that means a higher quality of life, says Meuret, who lives with asthma herself.

"The training gives patients new ways to deal with acute symptoms, and that helps them to feel more in control," she says. – (EurekAlert!, September 2009)

Read more:
Asthma Centre


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Asthma Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules