PITTSBURGH (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- Sweaty palms, spinning head, racing heart and blocked lungs. That's how someone having a panic, or anxiety attack describes the sudden, intense changes they go through. Now, a new device is training patients to breathe better and banish panic attacks.
For the first time in months, 52-year-old Marge Fekete is able to have coffee. Doctors had banned caffeine because of her panic disorder.
"When you're having a panic attack, you think you're dying," says Fekete.
Her struggle started more than three decades ago after two personal tragedies.
"I found my father dead when I was 12 and then at age 20, my brother was murdered," she says.
Eighteen months ago, the panic attacks that started in her teens skyrocketed after she changed jobs and moved. She'd have an attack every few days.
Fekete explains, "I was a prisoner in my own home for about six months."
Alicia Kaplan, MD, Psychiatrist at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh says, "In order to treat the physical symptoms, we talk about relaxation and we've taught the patients how to do deep abdominal breathing."
Dr. Kaplan also added a new treatment tool called the Freespira breathing system. Patients wear a cannula that is attached to a tablet and they follow a program to measure their breathing. Patients breathe in when they hear a tone go up and exhale when the tone goes down.
"They can follow their respiratory rate and their Co2 level," Dr. Kaplan explains.
Fekete trained 17 minutes, twice a day for four weeks. She says she's not cured, but along with medication and therapy, it has made a big difference.
"I have my life back. It's normal again," she says.
In a recent trial of the Freespira device, 98 percent of the patients reported a reduction in panic attacks and 64 percent were free from episodes after the treatment. The device is not covered by all insurance companies.