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Constant Trouble Breathing for Past Year

I've been googling and digging around forums for nearly the last year without anything, so I thought I would take the plunge and actually post my story/question, in the hopes that someone has had similar symptoms or has any suggestions as to how to proceed.

I am an American national residing in Japan.  I am currently 27 year old, on the verge of turning 28.  One year ago I woke up and could not breathe all the way.  One month before that, I experienced these symptoms for about 3 days following a period of intense stress.  Before that, I had absolutely no problems with anything.  There is simply no better way to put it.  I would inhale, and even if I filled my lungs, I would not feel "satisified" with a breath.  The breath often feels like it gets stopped at my solar plexus.  My condition is constant - from the moment I wake up, to the moment I sleep.  I do not have problems sleeping.  There is also some sort of colorless phlegm that I cannot cough up, but I have to clear my throat very often.  Now in the past year, on top of this breathing condition, I've developed dizziness/lightheadedness when I speak.  This gets really bad when I try to walk and talk at the same time - I feel very out of breath.  Another curious symptom I would have (that comes and goes), is a pain in my right hand when I do manage to inhale satisfactorily.

The funny thing is, I have no problems as of yet with exercise.  I lift weights, can run 20-25 minutes nonstop, exercise regularly (i.e. almost every day) have no problems getting to work and back.  The one thing that does KIND of make me feel a tiny bit better, is to lie down, twist my upper torso to the left, and rest on my left elbow.  In this position, I would feel as if air is getting to places it doesn't usually go to.  There would sometimes be a slight sheeze, and I would then try to cough up the phlegm that I feel like I stuck somewhere, but again it is not a productive cough.  

Needless to say, this is a depressingly debilitating state to be in, especially as my job requires me to speak a lot.  Externally, I look completely fine, so no one thinks twice.  Internally, I may be mildly depressed, though I traditionally have a bright disposition, so that's helping to offset the depression somewhat.  

On to the medical part - I've had 3 x-rays, 3 PFTs, a lung CT, 3 ECGs, 2 echograms, 1 24-hr ECG, multiple blood tests, blood oxygenation tests, a laryngoscopy where they had me say "ahhh," presumably to test for vocal cord disorder, through about 4 different doctors now, and nothing at all has been found.  I am scheduled for a 24hr blood oxygenation test tomorrow, and some sort of full asthma test next week.  

The doctors don't quite know.  One said (most recent one), "I've been a doctor for 30 years, and I am sure you don't have anything seriously wrong with you," which is reassuring of course, but doesn't solve the problem of dizziness that is at least a minimal requirement for me to go on with life in some sort of manner, assuming I can live with this breathing problem for the rest of my life.  I am currently on Omeprazole, Advair, and very mild hypertension medication.  The doctor has given me very light doses of Alprazolam (0.4mg), which helps calm me down.  

I've even called the National Jewish Hotline to see if the nurses could give some advice, and they advised me to look into VCD...which I believed the laryngoscopy cleared up.

If someone has any advice, I would be in every sense of the words, indebted to you for a lifetime, if I could somehow find a way to resolve this problem.
8 Responses
519035 tn?1348275773
Sounds like maybe anxiety???
Avatar universal

What antihypertensive medications are you on? Is your blood sugar and blood pressure in the normal range?

If alprazolam helps to calm you down this could be stress related. Are you sleeping well? Are you stressed about something at work or home?

It would help to talk to your family and friends, spend some time daily in walks or breathing exercises or meditation. Listen to music or read a book before you sleep.

Let us know about how you are doing and if any of the above helps.

Avatar universal
Hello Bhumika, Cynnie,

Thank you for your kind responses.  

I suppose it could be anxiety, or stress related...but even so, I've taken two (separate) months off work to try to recover.  During those two months I basically did nothing but try to de-stress, but to no avail.  If it is stress related, I'm also surprised that it's been with me  persistently for one year.  

I am on "losartan potassium," the lightest dose they offer in Japan (25mg) for hypertension.  This condition runs in my family so it comes as no surprise to me I have it too.  While on this, my blood pressure readings are fine, but without it, it is somewhere in the 135/85 range.  I have also gotten my blood sugar tested back in December, and the readings did come back fine.  Alprazolam does help calm me down, but doesn't really alleviate the symptoms, which I suspect is what's causing me to tense up in the first place - the thought of every breath does contribute to my anxiety.  

I have begun yoga recently, and hope to keep that up.  I've heard some amazing stories.

If anyone else has experienced this, and eventually found a cause other than stress - your input would be very highly appreciated!
Avatar universal
I just wanted to let you know that the breathing problem sounds like a food allergy to me. Try this: 1000 mg Vitamin C. If it stops the breathing problem, you do have a food allergy...something you are constantly exposed to. Did you get any recent vaccinations?

I used to love eating eggs. All of the sudden I couldn't eat them without getting breathing problems. I found out the allergy was caused by the eggs used in the MMR vaccine I got when I was 25. What it felt like was that I was "rushing" to breathe, I had to take in more breaths to get oxygen. 20 minutes after taking 1000 mg. C, it would subside. Of course I no longer eat eggs once I figured this out!

Also, have you been under anaesthesia from surgery recently? Because after going under anesthesia for a hernia surgery 5 years ago...for a period of about 2-3 years following I could not take a deep breath. My breathing was screwed up...it felt as if my lungs were not able to do what they were used to. Now I can take a full breath but it took a while for this problem to subside. The anesthesia rally screwed up my body for a few years.

Like you, I have had dizziness for a long time now. If I get up from squatting, I almost pass out. I attribute it to adrenal exhaustion (long term response to stress). You may want to look into that possibility. I thought I had blood sugar problems too but I tested normal on a 6 hour glucose test. Exercise does wonders for this problem.

Another possibility, you could be deficient in B-6 or some other nutrient. Try a good high quality multi-vitamin every 3 days. I have had intermittent breathing problems for along time. Anxiety brings on tachycardia...I use yogic alternate breathing to stop it. Do it for about 10 minute and it works. It could be a combination of both stress and dietary deficiency and/or an allergy too.

Personally I wouldn't take any synthetic medications, I think they make matters worse in the long run.

Good luck,
Avatar universal
Oh I forgot to mention. The sudden onslaught of your breathing problems could have been caused by your body reaching a critical threshhold of vitamin/mineral deficiency. Vitamins/minerals are so intertwined that it would be hard to pinpoint which is the culprit. But you could study it. The stress on your body of the constant breathing problems could lead to dizziness as a secondary effect.

At first I thought it might be calcium, but you say you are sleeping well. Calcium deficiency would cause your anxiety and nervous system to become very agitated. Best source of calcium is leafy greens (as an FYI). Then again the medication to calm you down could be masking the poor sleep and restless legs that would come with a calcium deficiency.

The phlegm implies an environmental allergen. Something in the room you sleep in, hidden molds? Sleep with an open window nearby would help if that is part of the cause.

Oh, your blood pressure was not high enough to warrant medication IMO. The stress on your body from your breathing problem would cause your blood pressure to go up slightly.
Avatar universal

How are you doing now? Are your symptoms resolving?

You could monitor your blood pressure daily for a week or so, and if it remains 130/80 without medications, you could consult your doctor about whether you need to continue with the anti hypertensives or not.

Let us know if you need any further information.

Avatar universal
i have the same symptoms. did you ever figure something out that worked?
Avatar universal
I had the same problem as you and also for over a year. I had trouble breathing and also when I drank water it seemed like it would cause phlegm to back up.I believe it was caused to stress.I had  a lump in my breast and endometriosis prior to the episodes and my husbands ex wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer that spread to her brain. I was not sleeping and a bit of a hypochondriac at the time. I was 29 years old. It finally resolved itself. I think if you think that you can't breathe it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. Your esophagus closes up on you. I also had difficulty eating that year and now many years later realized the nausea I felt was probably due to acid indigestion, also caused by stress. I went to many doctor and had many tests too. No one could find anything wrong with me. I hope this helps in some way. Good luck!
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