Mysterious shortness of breath

Posted by gabrielm @gabrielm, May 31, 2018

I will try to make this as short as possible, but this has been going on for over 5 years, so it might be farily long. 

Beginning in summer of 2012, I began having shortness of breath (SOB) with no other symptoms. I felt a constant need to yawn, and every few breaths wouldn't satisfy the SOB. I would take a deep breath, and felt like it would get "stuck" before satisfying the air hunger feeling. About every 3-5 deep breaths would satisfy it, only for it to return a minute later. 

I got an endoscopy and other tests done, which revealed that I had some esophageal erosion due to acid reflux and a slight hiatal hernia and was diagnosed with GERD. I had always have bad heartburn, so I was prescribed with Prilosec, which I have been taking daily since them. I've tried stopping it a few times but the reflux always comes back a lot worse. 

Lung tests and x-rays were normal. Heart tests normal. Blood test revealed a slight anemia but otherwise pretty normal. 

I did some research reading forums where someone suggested taking vitamin B-12. Strangely, I took it and the SOB disappeared almost instantly. However, it only lasted a few days for it to return just as bad. I then started taking an iron supplement, which again made the SOB disappear quickly- same thing; symptom returned days later. 

After further research, I came across a breathing exercise method called the Buteyko method. Essentially you do a lot of breath holding to build up CO2 and reduce breathing as the theory is that I had chronic hyperventilation causing too much CO2 to exit my body. After applying the method and reducing my breathing, the SOB disappeared after only 2 days and I felt completely normal. I continued the method a few more days then no longer felt the need to pursue the exercises. I was normal for a whole year when the SOB once again returned with some chest tightness. I applied the method again and the symptom went away, this time with a little more effort; after about 3 weeks. I included physical exercise which also helped with my breathing. 

After that, I was normal for about 2 years. I mistakenly stopped or at least slowed down exercise and the SOB returned once again. I applied the method and began running for exercise but the SOB kept getting worse. It got so bad, I had multiple panic attacks and the feeling of completely empty lungs with the inability to satisfy it with deep breaths. I had to stop exercise altogether, apply the Buteyko method and do breathing exercises very carefully with very light and slow exercise. This helped, but it took many weeks for the SOB to improve. Then, it was almost normal when over a year ago as I was running, I couldn't get a deep breath to satisfy exercise-induced SOB. I have had SOB continuously since then (a year and a half). 

I once again started doing breathing exercises and slowly building up physical exercise, but I can't do any prolonged cardio activity because the SOB gets to a point where deep breathing will not satisfy it. While the breathing exercises have helped, they have had very little effect compared to previous efforts. It seems that every time the symptom returned, greater effort yields few results.

I suspect there is something, some underlying cause that is causing the SOB that has alluded me this entire time. 

So for the past few months to a year, the SOB is worse on some days, better on others, but never gone. There's no rhyme or reason or pattern for it. It's just there, sometimes affecting my sleep. I sometimes can't get a deep breath to satisfy it every now and then, but for the most part, a big gulp of air will satisfy it. But it returns seconds to minutes later. It's as though every breath doesn't deliver what it's supposed to, the SOB builds up, and then I have to take a big gulp of air to get rid of the feeling, pattern repeats. My breathing pattern is normal, however. I don't feel like anything physical is happening, but sometimes it feels like my airways and nostrils are slightly inflamed due to allergies, but when I don't feel inflammation the SOB is still there. 

Recent lung function tests show normal- I don't have asthma, or any other problems with my lungs. Heart tests are normal though I did have about a two week bout of heart palpitations which came and went. Haven't had any for a while- it just mysteriously started happening then stopped. Blood tests are normal, though tests always show a slight elevation of biliruben which my doc thinks is Gilbert's disease. 

I don't have sleep apnea (normal test), bloody oxygenation is normal, heart rate normal. 

I recently saw local naturopath (since mainstream docs aren't able to help) who immediately suspected a liver problem when I described my SOB, possibly liver inflammation. He used an electrodermal testing machine to test his theory which did seem to show a problem with my liver and gallbladder. He gave me digestive enzymes and a gallbladder formula to help clear a bile duct clog, thus reducing liver inflammation. He also determined with the machine that I have an egg sensitivity so I've been avoiding eggs. 

Been taking this and avoiding eggs for a couple of months, but there has been no noticeable improvement. Everything else is normal. Emotionally I'm normal- no anxiety, depression, etc. The SOB seems to be the only symptom of something, but always comes back worse, until a year and half ago when it came back and has remained since. I feel like I shouldn't have to do breath holding exercises every day just to maintain my breathing well enough to do every day things. 

Does anyone have any idea of a possible underlying cause?

@catmom777

Ok, I'll look into that. I am learning how to cope, like millions of others. There are so many out there who are much worse off than I am, so I have to remember that too. I know a guy who has been a parapalegic for about 30 years now, since a tree fell on his back during a storm. He was helping someone else out when it happened. He has managed to survive and between him and his wife have raised and supported two children. I could go on. I just need to learn to deal with this.

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@catmom777– Good morning. It's always positive to feel empathy for others but it's a mistake to compare ourselves with others because then we don't pay attention to ourselves, and it's a belittling of you special you are. What you or I "go through" is just as important as a person in a wheel chair or someone with phobias trying to climb mountains. Dealing with something lessens the importance of acceptance. If you didn't know that your daughter was being molested hw are you responsible? Is your daughter blaming you for something that isn't your fault?
By the way I think that this conversation should be with the depression and anxiety group. Will you join us here? https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/depression-anxiety/

Liked by catmom777

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Just came across this and related to the yawning, I also never sneezed so much in my life. I have CT for heart view testing and after 5 years came up with growth of the present nodules which lead my PCP to refer me to a Pulmonologist. Further testing, and I mean a lot P.E.T, bronchoscopy CT scans etc,,, lead to the diagnosis of COPD, emphysema and NT MAC.\ in November 2018- shocked! I did fine I was short of breath when I was swimming, especially in cold water, but that is OK I have to give up swimming and gain weight along with taking a horrible cocktail of antibiotics to cure, if it is one, this.
Try everything ir you feel that your body is telling you something, usually it's right. Blessing and best of luck!

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@alycallaghan1– Welcome to Connect and good morning. It sounds as if you have had a tough time. I'm sorry. I agree with you 100% to try everything to find the root of a problem, and listen to how you feel! How are you feeling while you gain weight?

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@merpreb

@catmom777– Good morning. It's always positive to feel empathy for others but it's a mistake to compare ourselves with others because then we don't pay attention to ourselves, and it's a belittling of you special you are. What you or I "go through" is just as important as a person in a wheel chair or someone with phobias trying to climb mountains. Dealing with something lessens the importance of acceptance. If you didn't know that your daughter was being molested hw are you responsible? Is your daughter blaming you for something that isn't your fault?
By the way I think that this conversation should be with the depression and anxiety group. Will you join us here? https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/depression-anxiety/

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That would not be a bad idea. I think a lot of my problems go back to feeling such tremendous guilt and shame over what happened to my daughter and what he put me through as well. I had three bad relationships in a row over 25 years and my kids got caught in the middle of them. But, the horrible pervert was the worst, and he had me trapped. I couldn't find a decent place to live so it was real hard to get out, even when living with him became unbearable. He was really messed up. A Vietnam vet and a psychopath–on mission to destroy us. I should have recognized he was messed up at the beginning and tried harder to stay away from him. But, I didn't. It's been along process of rebuilding our lives–13 years now. But, we are moving forward. My daughter doesn't blame me per se. She's resentful and doesn't trust me because I threw her under the bus. I did. There's no getting around it. But I drank to escape. Not much, just a glass or two of wine after work. I thought it helped me cope. So many years later I wind up with afib and some kind of lung issue. It's all related. One thing led to another. But, I'm dealing with that too. I have a busy week planned.
I hope you have a good week. Thanks for all your advice and being a listening ear.

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@catmom777

That would not be a bad idea. I think a lot of my problems go back to feeling such tremendous guilt and shame over what happened to my daughter and what he put me through as well. I had three bad relationships in a row over 25 years and my kids got caught in the middle of them. But, the horrible pervert was the worst, and he had me trapped. I couldn't find a decent place to live so it was real hard to get out, even when living with him became unbearable. He was really messed up. A Vietnam vet and a psychopath–on mission to destroy us. I should have recognized he was messed up at the beginning and tried harder to stay away from him. But, I didn't. It's been along process of rebuilding our lives–13 years now. But, we are moving forward. My daughter doesn't blame me per se. She's resentful and doesn't trust me because I threw her under the bus. I did. There's no getting around it. But I drank to escape. Not much, just a glass or two of wine after work. I thought it helped me cope. So many years later I wind up with afib and some kind of lung issue. It's all related. One thing led to another. But, I'm dealing with that too. I have a busy week planned.
I hope you have a good week. Thanks for all your advice and being a listening ear.

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Yesterday is gone and we cannot change it. We can control today and tomorrow. Do so. You are never alone. God is with you. Allow Him to help you. 🙏💞

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@catmom777

That would not be a bad idea. I think a lot of my problems go back to feeling such tremendous guilt and shame over what happened to my daughter and what he put me through as well. I had three bad relationships in a row over 25 years and my kids got caught in the middle of them. But, the horrible pervert was the worst, and he had me trapped. I couldn't find a decent place to live so it was real hard to get out, even when living with him became unbearable. He was really messed up. A Vietnam vet and a psychopath–on mission to destroy us. I should have recognized he was messed up at the beginning and tried harder to stay away from him. But, I didn't. It's been along process of rebuilding our lives–13 years now. But, we are moving forward. My daughter doesn't blame me per se. She's resentful and doesn't trust me because I threw her under the bus. I did. There's no getting around it. But I drank to escape. Not much, just a glass or two of wine after work. I thought it helped me cope. So many years later I wind up with afib and some kind of lung issue. It's all related. One thing led to another. But, I'm dealing with that too. I have a busy week planned.
I hope you have a good week. Thanks for all your advice and being a listening ear.

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@catmom777– This might just be up your alley
https://www.amazon.com/Getting-Through-What-Cant-Over-ebook/dp/B00PTHU8JW

Liked by catmom777

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@catmom777

That would not be a bad idea. I think a lot of my problems go back to feeling such tremendous guilt and shame over what happened to my daughter and what he put me through as well. I had three bad relationships in a row over 25 years and my kids got caught in the middle of them. But, the horrible pervert was the worst, and he had me trapped. I couldn't find a decent place to live so it was real hard to get out, even when living with him became unbearable. He was really messed up. A Vietnam vet and a psychopath–on mission to destroy us. I should have recognized he was messed up at the beginning and tried harder to stay away from him. But, I didn't. It's been along process of rebuilding our lives–13 years now. But, we are moving forward. My daughter doesn't blame me per se. She's resentful and doesn't trust me because I threw her under the bus. I did. There's no getting around it. But I drank to escape. Not much, just a glass or two of wine after work. I thought it helped me cope. So many years later I wind up with afib and some kind of lung issue. It's all related. One thing led to another. But, I'm dealing with that too. I have a busy week planned.
I hope you have a good week. Thanks for all your advice and being a listening ear.

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@catmom777 Hi. Try to keep in mind, it is what you do from this day forward that really counts.

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@girlbybay

Good Morning fellow COPD indviduals, keep believing in what you can do, the better shape your heart is in, the less oxygen needed from your lungs… the magic of belief, no deadline,s I believe God knows all our Numbers, when our time is up, everyday is a gift!!! Sunny Seeker in Fl

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I don't think that most people here have COPD. It sounds more like reflux related as in my case.

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@rdemi

I don't think that most people here have COPD. It sounds more like reflux related as in my case.

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I would think the same thing of me except that I got such severe smoke inhalation four years ago and my acid reflux has calmed down since I quit drinking coffee and wine. I have had difficulty breathing on & off for over a year + coughing on and off for over a year. The last three months my cough has been getting worse too. But, I can't diagnose myself, so I'm going to see a doctor.

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This is 100% my story. Very frustrated. I am experiencing another bout. Last time it started around end of April and last 3-4 months. Bummed it came back.
I had small bouts in my early 20s (now 32).
Have had all the tests. No stress. No anxiety. Very active and healthy.
Most people look at me like I am crazy when o describe this situation.

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@catmom777

I would think the same thing of me except that I got such severe smoke inhalation four years ago and my acid reflux has calmed down since I quit drinking coffee and wine. I have had difficulty breathing on & off for over a year + coughing on and off for over a year. The last three months my cough has been getting worse too. But, I can't diagnose myself, so I'm going to see a doctor.

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@catmom777– Isn't it awful when things creep back on us after we think that we are better? But Great news, you are taking action to get better and to take care of yourself! I applaud this because when I feel well my mood is so much better. Do you agree?

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@merpreb

@catmom777– Isn't it awful when things creep back on us after we think that we are better? But Great news, you are taking action to get better and to take care of yourself! I applaud this because when I feel well my mood is so much better. Do you agree?

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Agree. Went four days with no afib episodes but last night noticed my heart was being crazy, but it didn't go into full-on tachycardia with the 181 bpm that I had last week when I called the paramedics. It just acted weird. And my chest hurt also, under my left breast, so I had trouble getting to sleep. But this morning it's all fine! So odd. I think maybe I didn't drink enough fluids yesterday.

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@catmom777– Are you on any meds for this? Are you calling your doctor this AM?

Liked by catmom777

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@merpreb

@catmom777– Are you on any meds for this? Are you calling your doctor this AM?

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I'm on Eliquis and Diltiazen, which is supposed to regulate my heart rate. There is nothing more my GP can do for me. I have to wait until I see the cardiologist in two weeks. Even if I go to the ER there is nothing they can do either. I get real scared when this happens, but this morning I woke up fine and my heart rate has been normal all morning. It seems my heart acts up when I'm tired, at night, so I need to try to not get tired until the cardiologist can evaluate me.
So, I just picked up my medical records from the pulmonary function test I had done a year ago and it states on there I might have asthma. It said that on the DLCO maneuver my lung function was less than 85% of vital capacity. My GOP did not tell me that. The rest of the test showed normal pulmonary function. I'm taking these test results to the cardiologist also.
I need to learn to cope with this. It's been a month now since my heart went nuts and I got diagnosed in the ER. It's clear it's not going to fix itself.
Thanks for listening.

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@catmom777

I have shortness of breath also, but I know the reason for mine–growing up in a smoking household, repeated bronchitis, and smoke inhalation four years ago. I have the same symptoms as you though. I never can get a full lung full of air. I have hiked up a steep hill for two days in a row now, and that helps for a little bit, but the next morning my SOB is back and I feel oxygen starved. The big deal for me though is that on 3/8 my heart went crazy, like it couldn't get enough oxygen, and called the paramedics and wound up in the ER where I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
Also, you didn't mention if you coughed up phlegm. I cough up phlegm several times a day and sometimes it has tinges of blood in it.

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@catmom777 it sounds like you bounce in and out of rapid Afib. Your cardiologist should be able to help you titrate you medicine to help with theses spells. A lot of people live in Afib but not rapid afib and are put on blood thinners and the correct medicine and live normal lives. Afib alone can cause you to be short of breath and when its happening i bet you feel as though you have had a good cardio workout. It may help sometimes when you feel you are having AFib to bear down like you are having a bowel movement, this will sometimes convert you back to a sinus rhythm (maybe) . Maybe your doctor will suggest a heart monitor for you to wear so they can see exactly whats going on. Just stay positive and know its treatable and hopefully you will feel be
Better soon.

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