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?

@sukrutp– Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. It looks as if you have done a lot of things to change your life to help the SOB, especially losing weight. I encourage you to read the posts in this discussion as others like you have basically the same symptoms. I wouldn't rule out GERD as the reason for your SOB. Finding out the cause for it can be tricky and GERD can be difficult to diagnose because it's sometimes unreliable in the way that it acts.

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@jwiegers17

How did you go about testing for this? I had black mold in my bathroom and I think i got really sick from it, right around the time this started. This Would be worth testing for me but I don’t know how to even ask.

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I am located in Texas and there are state licensed companies that do testing only. Texas regulates the inspectors and they are not allowed to do any of the removal, only inspect . They do visual inspections and test a sample and it is expensive : 2500 sq ft home cost about 1200.00 that was with air quality test, which I definitely recommend. We had 3 of the most toxic black molds there is . The air quality outside of house was 300 ppm ( parts per million ) but inside about 20,000 ppm. It was really bad . If you back mold for a long time it becomes air borne and it then gets in your AC heat duct system and the spores get on all your furniture , books, clothes , everything you own . You have to discard all of your belongings or you can try to clean but it takes heavy cleaning with bleach then let it dry for 12 hrs then clean with vinegar let it dry 12 hrs then clean with ammonia mixed with water 1/2 ammonia to gallon of water and you would wash all clothes 3 times with each . This was the directions given to me by a Dr that actually experienced toxic mold poisoning herself . It is a rough process . First symptoms were : rash, high BP, felt like my head was on fire ( I still experience this almost 3 yrs later ) what are your symptoms ? I am a little slow on responding but I will gladly give you as much information. I have and I will gladly help because I know how difficult this can be . Good luck

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@gabrielm

Yes @tonyagregg, I'd like to keep in touch with you. Sounds like what you have is pretty similar to me. It's been much worse before, but it's stabled out. Still not gone by any means, but I can at least live with it. Let's stay in touch. Maybe we can tag team our research or let each other know if we find some kind of answers.

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I have same issue started since first week of March and gone through my xrays and blood works. They say all is fine including heart function. Please advise if something can improve daily living as I am really having hard time sleeping as well. Really appreciate the guidance on exercises or any other thing.

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In regards to mold…There are some strong anti fungals that your doctor can prescribe. If it's a small amount of mold your body might be able to detox from it on its own. In my research I've come across people who've stated they've used undenatured whey protein. It provides the building blocks for your body to make a hormone called glutathione which the liver needs to rid the body of toxins https://moldfreeliving.com/2018/05/11/glutathione-the-most-important-antioxidant-for-mold-recovery/

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Yes I already take the glutathione. There is no cure with anyone drug or supplements. It is a combination of actions to take that will help my body eliminate the mycotoxins. Slow process . One of my doctors suggested hyperbaric chamber treatments but it is expensive and Medicare will not cover . I am appealing that .

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@adeela

I have same issue started since first week of March and gone through my xrays and blood works. They say all is fine including heart function. Please advise if something can improve daily living as I am really having hard time sleeping as well. Really appreciate the guidance on exercises or any other thing.

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I have been told by one of my doctors that exercise can cause me to have flare ups which is a 10-15 min episode where I feel like my head is on fire and feel nauseated. Have you have you environment tested for mold and determined which toxic mold You have been exposed to?

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@glenb

I have been told by one of my doctors that exercise can cause me to have flare ups which is a 10-15 min episode where I feel like my head is on fire and feel nauseated. Have you have you environment tested for mold and determined which toxic mold You have been exposed to?

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Epsom salt baths also support the body's detoxification process.

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@helpnywhereucan

Epsom salt baths also support the body's detoxification process.

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Good idea. I never thought of that . Thank you .

Liked by helpnywhereucan

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I have been dealing this past 2 years

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Can i talk to you

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@merpreb

@sukrutp– Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. It looks as if you have done a lot of things to change your life to help the SOB, especially losing weight. I encourage you to read the posts in this discussion as others like you have basically the same symptoms. I wouldn't rule out GERD as the reason for your SOB. Finding out the cause for it can be tricky and GERD can be difficult to diagnose because it's sometimes unreliable in the way that it acts.

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How you diagnose

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@gabrielm

@mckaylah – I am still dealing with it as well and it's been a total of 8 years. But it was nearly gone for 3 of those years when I applied the breathing exercises. The air hunger still came back a couple of years ago and I've been dealing with it since, but to a somewhat milder degree. I also have good days and bad days, but am able to manage it by continuing to take Omeperazole, doing breathing exercises almost every day, and moderate weight lifting and walks almost every day.

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HI I just saw the post and i can relate. I've had same issues since 2002 and I'm 44 years old. It feels like pressure under Adam's apple and cant get full breath. It goes away at times then returns and last. It cant be all stress related. Have you made any headway?

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@dishwalla9– Good morning and welcome to Mayo Connect. The pressure that you feel under your Adam's Apple sounds much like mine does. I have GERD and this is a classic symptom. Have you been to see a GI doctor? Have you seen any physicians?

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@hudaliqat

Can i talk to you

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@hudaliqat– WHo are you asking?

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@merpreb

@hudaliqat– WHo are you asking?

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Hi I've had this issue since 2002. That's 18 years. At one time I went to every doctor imaginable including many at Cleveland clinic to get answers for my symptoms. I will say this that search helped me greatly. I ended up diagnosed with having SVT….neurocardiogenic syncope….and finally the rheumatologist diagnosed me with fibromyalgia and autonomic disorder which gets was part of that. I believe the unable to get a full breath without almost yawning a n.v d the tightness ….that isnt something else… falls in the autonomic disorder spectrum. I'm interested to see what you guys make of this theory? Like I said I've been at this probably more than anyone I know. Sure for some people it could be asthma or other causes but I believe the autonomic nervous system is faulty in people like us that have this and Gerd is only a small part of the problem. Like I said it's on a spectrum so some worse some better. I'd be interested in what other issues you guys have if any besides issues getting the full satisfying breath. Thanks Joe

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