Respiratory Disorders Expert Forum
Air hunger - is this asthma or anxiety?
About This Forum:

This forum is for questions and support regarding lung and respiratory issues. such as: Allergies, Asthma, Bronchitis, Colds - Flu, Chronic Cough, COPD, Cystic Fibrosis, Emphysema, Fibrosis, Lung Abscess, Nasal Polyps, Pleurisy, Pneumonia, Sarcoidosis, Sinusitis, Tuberculosis.

Font Size:
A
A
A
Background:
Blank
Blank
Blank
This expert forum is not accepting new questions. Please post your question in one of our medical support communities.
Blank Blank

Air hunger - is this asthma or anxiety?

I was dx'd w/non allergic asthma a couple months ago after landing in the hospital from an asthma attack.  Prior to that I had no history of asthma.  My docs discovered I have chronic sinusitis which kept re-infecting my lungs until, I guess, they just couldn't take it anymore. I was tested for allergies and apparently have none.  

Since the attack, I find the need to take deep breaths (which I was told is called air hunger) or yawn constantly.  It doesn't happen every day and some days are worse than others.  Sometimes it happens so much over the course of the day that my lungs feel "sore" for lack of a better word.

My question - is this part of asthma or is it anxiety?  I have discovered that when I take atavan (sp?) the symptoms aren't as bad.  I'm not sure if it is a psychological reaction or physical though.  After my attack, I was put on a couple of long courses of Levaquin and actually, just finished another 6 week course. I read that Levaquin can cause anxiety and wonder if that has something to do with it.  

Any insight?
Related Discussions
251132_tn?1198082422
With a history of a diagnosis of asthma, it is difficult to tell what is the cause of the symptoms you are describing.  It would be fairly easy for your doctor to assess your problem.  While you are having these symptoms, your doctor could listen to your lungs and perform a pulmonary function test.  That could lead you to taking appropriate action to deal with these symptoms.
13 Comments
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
I have been experiencing the same "air hunger" I quit smoking about 3 months ago and have also had chest x-rays that confirm that my lungs are normal. I am a healthy 35 year old who has always eaten well and excercised at least four times a week. In addition my 4 year old son was diagnosed with Leukemia close to a year ago.  The doctors are telling me that this is related to stress and anxiety but I am not entirely confident with that.  They seem to find out my situation and more or less tell me that I am creating my own symptoms.  This is very frustrating as It is real and it is scary.  I have good days and bad days as well and they have also suggested that it could be caused by acid reflux brought on once again by stress.  I am not saying that they are wrong but would like a second opinion.
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
First let me say how sorry I am that you are having to go through this with your son.  I have 3 kids and what you are going through is my worst nightmare.  I wish you well and send prayers that your son will recover quickly.  

I would definitely get a second opinion on your breathing, just because I have learned to not always trust the first one.  However, I can say that the more and more I deal with it, I have to believe that it is anxiety causing a type of hyperventilation.  I think that is what my "air hunger" really is.  I don't know for a fact, I'm certainly not a doc, but from what I have read online and know from personal experience, the mind can really screw you up if you let it.  

Don't forget, you need to take care of you in order to take care of him.  I'll be keeping you and your son in my prayers and thoughts. God bless.
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
hi - i suffered from Hyperventilation Syndrome for a few years -to summarise I did not use by diaphragm properly but brethed by expanding my chest. In my case this led to 'air hunger' - feeling of not getting enough air - this led to more and more breathing which is hyperventialtion - too much O2 (and lack of C)2 in the blood) which casues dizziness and possibly tingly extremities. Also the feeling of drowing (lack of air) led to panic and lots of adrenhalin which led to uncontrollable shaking. Doc thought it was hypoglycemia but sugar levels were normal. Also from all that chest expansion led to chest pains (another worrying feeling). In summary we should use our diaphragms to breath - the chest should really only expand when we're exercising hard and need that bit extra air volume. Since doing some brething technique re-training (with a trained physio) breathing has become a lot easier. Apparently it can take a long time - even a year - for the brain to get used to proper O2/CO2 levels in the blood - bad breathing for a long time sort of reprograms the brain to be used to low CO2 - retraining can be a bit uncofortable as the brain resists getting MORE ocygen than it's used to - preoper advice is worthwhile.

as a strange side note I found food sensitivities contributed to my bad breathing - excess respiritory mucous made it harder to breathe and a bloated stomach (gluten reaction) made it harder for my diaphragm to push down into my abdomen - you can strengthen the diaphragm with resistance training - breathing through a device. good luck and happy breathing - it's so GOOD when it comes right.

PS one doc diagnosed asthma when it's wasn't - maybe your's isn't too - but take asthma seriously!
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
Hi Celtic Mom, I have had problems with anxiety since I was a kid. I went to doctor after doctor, all telling me that I was just the "nervous" type. I got so tired of hearing it that I finally went to a phyciatrist to get to the root of this nightmare. Panick, shortness of breath,having to run out of a store,tingling extremities, and the list goes on. When you talk about your lungs hurting, I totally understand. I always have referred to that as my lungs feeling "cold". No doctor until now could understand what I meant by that feeling. (Only my "shrink" understands) On a bad day, I have medication for it, but try to avoid it. I think that feelings of anxiety are easier to deal with, when you learn that you dont have some dreadful disease,or when you meet someone that can truely and personally relate.


My thoughts and prayers go out to the little boy with leukemia. Keep up the faith, medical technology has come a long way.
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
Thank you everyone for your best wishes with my son.  He is in remission and doing quite well.  I wanted to ask if anyone has had a high pulse rate with this strange "air hunger" I have been told that I have the blood pressure of a teenager but lately my resting pulse rate is between 90-110 this seems high as i am in shape.  I have never been told until recently that it is high and never had much concern to check it before a nurse brought it to my attention.
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
I too stooped smoking about 2 months ago. And I had already been suffering from mild-moderate anxiety.

Now  find myself feeling incomplete breaths, frquent yawning, and a general tightness in my chest.  

Do you think this could be caused by the smking cessation?

Blank
Avatar_n_tn
Sorry, it was neither for me. Although I have had ALL of these symptoms.
After four years of trial and error I have found that I need more iron.
Iron allows blood cells to carry oxygen through the body. It's the largest deficiency in the U.S. ! (Read the back of the Nature Made label)
Also, a supplement of Armour thyroid helped.
My incident occurred after a surgery. I feel it was loss of blood in combination with too many and too much medication. Long story.
But that's it.
Have your ferritin levels checked. If they are at the low end, then try iron.
Ferrous fumarate works best for me. I take at least 65 mg. day with vitamin C for absorption and with food. It takes at least a week and maybe longer and the fatigue and air hunger goes away. But if not, get to a doc and get thyroid, preferably one that does not just go by the test ranges...because even a subclinical condition can cause severe symptoms. It may be tougher if you already have a lot of damage.
My symptoms are too numerous to list and even include weight gain.
For digestive problems you can also take a high quality digestive enzyme. But that went away with thyroid also.
Good luck.
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
inanga -

hello all, just poking around on the net for some info on the way i have been feeling lately and stumbled onto this thread.  What you have described, inanga, seems exactly like me. the tightness of the chest, not using my diapragm to breathe, even the food reactions. After almost every meal i feel like i can barely breathe, because i feel bloated, which leads to intense tiredness. I was wondering if I could have any more info from you, such as what kind of doctor recognized your problems,the type of physiotherapist you worked  with to retrain your lungs, and the types of exercises you did. Also, i am new to this, though my health has been declining for almost a year, so i was wondering what tests to ask my doctor for to test lung O2 capacity, etc.  Any help would be greatly appreciated. I can give you my email address if you would be willing to answer these questions there or maybe here. Thanks again, and my prayers go out to your son, celticmom.
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
Hi everyone I've been suffering with their air hunger very bad for about 10 years it started in 1995 that had it ever since I've been to many doctors emergency rooms psychiatrists and nobody ever use the word air hunger they said it was emphysema asthma which they were all wrong I quit alcohol about 28 years ago never had a drink since I'll never forget when I quit started to get panic attacks that were outrageous and back then not too many people or doctors knew what they were I suffered like heck with them I had a pulse rate of hundred 120 took a long time to get over many of the symptoms but they never went away I'm on tranquilizers for the same amount of time and I'm very addicted to them I try to quit many times and failed I thought the alcohol was bad but these tranquilizers are beyond what you can imagine withdrawal to feel like it's really strange that we all have this symptom cold air hunger and is no answers for many one especially the professionals and doctors and psychiatrists and whoever else you want to add to the list I and 58 years old and tired of all the bull that you receive from everyone it has destroyed my life in so many ways there is something always worse to look forward to as everyone tells you it could be worse why can't they find the reason for this air hunger anxiety anxiety anxiety such an easy word to say they spend billions of dollars on this day shuttle and waste money on everything else that makes no sense and has no practicality I donate money to St. Jude's which is not a lot but they send me a picture of these poor little children who suffer beyond which you can imagine again where's the money all going not for these children not for anybody else that has very serious financial difficulties  or sleeping on the street I say to myself I wonder if was all worth quiting the alcohol everyone says so but Tuesday's I like to drown myself in its again if a professional doctor or scientist reads this e-mail give a sensible answer not a stupid one about this air hunger and stop blaming everything on one word anxiety it's a great word and everyone has it but the one to suffer with this air hunger are the ones that really help
Blank
Avatar_f_tn
About 10 years ago, I had a traumatic incident happen in my life, but thought I was o.k.  One day at work I felt like I couldn't breath.  I walked over to the secretary and told her.  I was taken to the emergency room and put on oxygen and given several tests.  Over a period of several months this happened along with sharp chest pain radiating thru to my back and other symptoms.  Finally,  I got to the point where I couldn't leave my house because of extreme panic or fear.  My doctor sent me for so many tests all came out normal.  He finally diagnosed me as having panic attacks and stress.  I refused to beleive that this was the casue of all of my problems.  Well, he put me on ativan which is basically the same thing as valium but works faster.  Lo and behold it worked.  If you are suffering from anxiety disorder or panic attacks daily, you should probably be on a medication such as paxil for generalized anxiety disorder.  I find that if I have a "sudden onset" panic attack, ativan works for me.  Good luck.
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
Hello everyone. (sorry that this is long. but maybe it will help.)
I assume I'm quite a bit younger than you all; I'm still a teenager. Yet I, too, have been experiencing this "air hunger". Some of the stories on this post have reminded me SO MUCH of some of the symptoms that I experience.

It just hit me one night...I've never had asthma before, and this one night I just had to strain to get a good deep breath in. I could breath, but it just seemed that I couldn't fill my lungs up all the way, or get a satisfying breath. So I was off the the Emergency Room with my mom (the worrier. At this point, I was convinced that there was nothing wrong with me). The doctors drew blood, hooked me up to an ECG monitor, took a chest x-ray...and everything was in normal limits. I went home from the hospital with a few bruises from the interns' bad attempts at putting in IV's...but with no more knowledge about what was causing my sudden breathing problem.

Now, I'm not that old. Not that any of you are!! It's just that I'm in high school, and I don't have a job, and I don't really think that I'm old enough to say that I am stressed, or have anxiety issues. But the breathing problem persisted. My mom took me to one of her old doctor pals...a really experienced retired surgeon who went back into family medicine because of..well..Stock Market problems. But that's beside the point. Anyways, I was relieved to hear that I would be going to him, I KNEW he would have an answer. But after hearing my story he just started quizzically at me for a while. I had stumped the guy, which probabkly isn't something that happens to him very often. Eventually, he prescribed Lorazepam (Ativan).

I've seen Ativan mentioned on this thread a few times. It didn't really help me, though. It just made me really sleepy and unable to concentrate at school. I guess it helped a bit, as in some cases I was too sleepy to think about anything...including breathing.

It is also very strange how sometimes, I can breath fine, and sometimes, I find myself gulping for air. The "yawn" technique, which was mentioned in previous posts, sometimes does work for me, but not always. I have trouble sleeping due to the inability to take in enough air. I did a little bit of research, and I apologize once again as I am not a doctor or anything and these websites might be TOTALLY irrelevant to you. But then again, maybe they could help.

Okay. So in my research of this "air hunger" problem (which isn't very extensive...it's the middle of the night and I couldn't breath too well so I thought I'd go on the net to see if anything there could help) the word "dyspnea" popped up.

"Dyspnea is defined as abnormal or uncomfortable breathing in the context of what is normal for a person according to his or her level of fitness and exertional threshold for breathlessness"
(is quoted from the website:
http://www.aafp.org/afp/980215ap/morgan.html  

Somehow that sort of seems relevant, although it also says a bunch of stuff about dysnea being a common symptom for many bad diseases, so I hope that I'm wrong to believe that that's what I (and many others) have.

I also found this from the same site, a site on "why am I short of breath":
http://www.aafp.org/afp/20050415/1538ph.html

..which probably only contains info that you guys already know, but I don't really have that many helpful links lol so that one will make it look like I have more.

HOWEVER!!!

Okay, I know that maybe dictionary.com may not be the ideal place to get your medical advice. BUT
I typed "air hunger" in at dictionary.com. All that it came up with was this:

air hunger
n.
See dyspnea.

and the link is http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=air%20hunger

So who knows, maybe that is it. Anyways, I sincerely hope that I didn't just waste everyone's time with this post, but I also want you to know that it is EXTREMELY comforting to me to read all of your stories and to see that I am indeed not alone!! If this problem persists I might be going to a doctor again, and if I hear ANY more news about this awful condition I will definitely post it here. Does anyone else feel that this condition is just more annoying than anything else?? When I can't get a good breath in, I just try harder to breath and it makes everything worse. And I just hate the feeling of it.

G'night!!

p.s. That's weird. After writing all that, I can breath normally. Whooo knows.
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
OH ALSO!

Sorry. Okay JUST after posting that last comment I found another site on dyspnea
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyspnea

In the article on that webpage, it posts the causes of dyspnea:

Causes
disorders within the lungs, such as pulmonary hypertension, atelectasis
disorders in the ribcage, such as kyphosis,
disorders in adjacent organs
disorders in the nervous system
disorders due to drugs and toxic substances.

Okay so when I read the last sentence it reminded me of a few of the people who mentionned that they experience this air hunger after quitting smoking. So maybe it has something to do with that. Or maybe I'm just way off.

It also mentions Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, which is when one wakes up in the night short of breath or has difficulty breathing while lying down.
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
A related discussion, Adrenal Exhaustion/Air Hunger was started.
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
A related discussion, Air Hunger was started.
Blank
Continue discussion Blank
This Forum's Experts
242587_tn?1355427710
David Tinkelman, M.D.Blank
National Jewish Health
Denver, CO
Blank
Request an Appointment
MedHelp Health Answers
Blank
Asthma Tracker
Asthma Tracker
Start Tracking Now
Blank
Allergy Tracker
Allergy Tracker
Start Tracking Now
RSS Expert Activity
233488_tn?1310696703
Blank
New Cannabis Article from NORTH Mag...
Jul 20 by John C Hagan III, MD, FACS, FAAOBlank
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
3 Reasons Why You are Still Binge E...
Jul 14 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
Emotional Eating: What Your Closet ...
Jul 09 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank