So I had what I and the doctors thought was pneumonia for 4 months. My symptoms were pleural pain, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. I had numerous x-rays, CT scans, visits to my GP and a pulmonologist, plus an emergency room visit when I couldn't breathe due to rib and chest pain, plus three rounds of antibiotics, but they could only diagnose pneumonia. I wasn't getting much better, so I finally went to a second pulmonologist and he looked at all of my scans and symptoms and said he thought it wasn't pneumonia but pulmonary infarction, which he said is a subset of pulmonary embolism. He had me do three tests -- a ventilation/perfusion scan, an echo-cardiogram, and an ultrasound on my femoral artery. They all turned up negative results for any blood clots. I started been taking hormonal birth control about 2 months prior to my first symptoms to regulate my cycle and deal with other health issues, and both he and my OBGYN told me to immediately stop taking it regardless of the test results because it can cause blood clots. And now it's been 8 days since I stopped taking them and guess what? The pleural pain and shortness of breath have stopped and I have a bit more energy.
So the question is, were there blood clots that the scans just didn't catch? And what was that cloud at the bottom of my lungs that showed up on my x-rays and CT scans? It was always a bit inconclusive, so they diagnosed it as pneumonia. I'm doing a CT scan next week, so we'll see if that shows anything different. If the answer was to stop taking birth control I could have done that 4 months ago and not paid as much as $1000 in co-pays and taken over 100 hours of sick leave (thank goodness for telework, or it would have been more!).
So if you are a woman taking hormonal birth control and have these symptoms, even if they think it's something else, talk to your doctor about going off of it to see if the symptoms go away. You don't want to mess with pulmonary embolism!