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Avatar universal

shortness of breath/chest tightness with no other symptoms

I am a perfectly healthy, athletic 30-yr. old female who for the past week has been experiencing difficulty breathing with a tightness in my left upper chest.  I struggle to get a deep breath and sometimes have to yawn to do so.  If I thought about it enough and panicked, I could hypervetalate trying to catch my breath.  The only relief I get is when laying down to sleep or rest.  This started out of nowhere.  At first I suspected allergies--don't have a problem, but had spent the weekend outdoors and had kicked around some hay (literally) which I felt may have irritated my throat/chest.  Two days ago had a chest x-ray and EKG.  Doc sent me away like I was crazy telling me that it was probably stress or anxiety (even though I told him I didn't feel stressed or anxious) and to take a xanax and I would be better in a couple of days.  Any thoughts?  If it's nothing, great!  But I have tried to 'think my way out of it' and have ahd plenty of rest humoring the idea that it is stress.  Could a chest x-ray miss something like pleurisy or something else that might not show-up on an x-ray?
58 Responses
251132 tn?1198082422
With the hay exposure, this could be asthma or hypersensitivity pneumonitis, the latter even with a negative chest x-ray.  If these symptoms do not resolve spontaneously, quickly, you should see a pulmonary specialist and have another chest x-ray and pulmonary function tests (PFTs).
Avatar universal
It is possible thatyou stirred up a lot of mold and fungus out in the hay. Most people are affected by mold and fungus, and hay is full of it. It probablty would not show up on a chest x-ray unless you had pemanent damage in your airways. Try some Zyrtec, Allegra, or whatever allergy medicine your Dr. will give you for about a week. If you are stil having problems, you may consider Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT), and an Echocardiogram. PFT's will evaluate for asthma, and many other lung problems. An Echo could detect the flow efficiency of your heart, and evaluate for structural defects. An EKG only shows the electrical activity of your heart. If your Dr. won't take you seriously after another try, get a new one!
Avatar universal
I have been having a shortness of breath for over one year now.  I constantly have to take a deep breath or I have to yawn to try to breathe.  I have been seen by a cardiologist, allergist, pulmonary specialist, gastroentrologist and have had all sorts of tests done also.  EKG, chest x-ray, echocardiogram, stress test, breathing tests, CAT Scan, and allergy tests (I looked like a porcupine brushed up against me!).  Everything has come back showing nothing is wrong.  Which on one hand is great, but on the other hand, what am I supposed to do about my breathing.  I have no idea what to do next!  Sometimes my breathing is so bad that I have to literally bend over and I still can't catch my breath.  I yawn all the time to catch that breath of air,  I yawn the minute I wake up from my sleep and I am getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night, I'm not tired, I just yawn!
Any help or suggestions would be really appreciated.  
Avatar universal
The part that confuses my husband is that when I rest or lay down, I do not struggle for a deep breath.  I don't find it too odd, though, because after thinking about it, when at rest it is not as necessary to take a deep breath.  However, I can't lay around all day.  I get good sleep and my husband said he doesn't hear breathing difficulty while I sleep.  Do you also experience no problems when at rest?
Avatar universal
O MY GOD THANK YOU ...at least I no im not crazy...I quit smoking about 5 months ago and at first I had the same problem. But it got a little better so I thought cool. My Doctor said it was anxiety. Well its back and its bad Im going crazy trying to take a deep breath, I mean I go to work and exercise,clean house and all that but my family just look at me because im always sitting there raising my chest trying to get a deep breath in. the whole yawning thing ,I just thought that there was something wrong with me that I just cant yawn ..O how I wish I could just stop all this crazy feeling. And get back to breathing good, like when i did smoke. they said quitting would make me feel great but it has drove me crazy with this breathing thing.Any ideas on how to make it go away? My husband just says quit thinking about it,you can make it stop if you want to but then Im like ya I enjoy not breathing normally.
Well Thanks I think im going to save this site to show him i not crazy other people have the same problem as me.

Avatar universal
Hi all, I'm a 45 year old male, smoker. ( only about 1/2 pack a day, sometimes less ) I know I should quit, one day I will. ( hopefully voluntarily ! ) Anyway, I've had this yawning/breathing thing on and off for about 4 years ! It used to be just in the winter, now it's all the time. This episode has lasted about 5 months. My chest gets sore from the yawning all the time. Coincidentaly, or maybe not, I also have a chronice tightness in my neck/shoulder area. I don't know if the breathing is stuck because my chest is "sore", or vice-versa. I've tried Allegra, Tylenol sinus, all kinds of homeopathy. It's weird but it's actually better I believe if I'm on the treadmill. Could it be I breath better through my mouth? I really feel for you, as it is difficult to stay in a good mood when you feel all tensed up in the jaw and chest etc. Mine seems to be worse when I'm standing or sitting up, which also seems to make my shoulders feel more stiff. I'm kind of afraid to go to the doctor with it, it's been so long. I did have a chest X-ray and EKG for what turned out to be a pulled chest muscle about 3 years ago. Both were fine. The one thing that seems to snap me out of it last time was just trying to really believe it was "nothing to worry about", and really relax and breath through my stomach. Which I did initially when lying down watching T.V. The next day I felt better, but of course it came back.  I think it's something mental, as I don't seem to have this problem near as bad if something else is wrong. ( cold, or even a hangover ! ) Let me know how you're doing and if you stumble on anything that works. I think it's really in our head, and the more we concentrate and fret over it the more we exhaust our chest muscles yawning all the time. Anyway, good luck.

Avatar universal
I am reading this thread because I could not find an answer from the doctors, and I want to know I am not crazy. My symptoms sound similar to some of you I read (although not so much with the yawning).

Female, 31, non-smoker (although currently under the influences of second-hand smoke which I am sensitive to, and the details outside the scope of this topic).

With or without the cigarettes, for many years I have been prone to sensations of feeling I am about to suffocate. It typically happens when I am indoors when the air does not move around much, in movie theatres, at home, buildings. Others around me would feel perfectly fine and I would feel like I am running out of oxygen and need to breathe deeply, up to a point I need to rush outdoors where there is more moving air, or I would start having a panic attack. I often wake up in the middle of the night feeling suffocated and needed to go outside to get some fresh air.

My chest usually unusually compressed and it just feels like my lungs don't expand as readily as they should.

One more thing that might be related is, my heart rate goes up a lot even with minimal walking or anything (and tends to get worse with more second-hand smoke.)

All doctors I talked to say it's just stress and in the mind. I had some general tests on lung function years ago, and they found nothing. I know my iron count is on the low end (although deemed normal) and I used to have fainting spells when small.

Please comment and if anything, thanks for sharing because it makes me feel I am not crazy and alone on this. The problem has been bothering me for years and seem to be getting worse.

Avatar universal
I have the same exact problem that many users here seem to have and have had it for about a year.
-Not always being able to take deep breaths
-Slight pain/tightness in the left side of my chest
-Tightness in the Shoulders and Lower Back
-Increased Yawning

Like others have said I too believe that the problem is mostly caused by mental stress.  I
Avatar universal
I have this issue too, I am a 22 year old girl have had all the tests etc... i went through hell trying to figure this out last year. For me it gets worse with PMS and when I feel anxious or stressed.

I believe what this is is called hyperventilation syndrome and there is a book available on it on Ebay. I have not tried it yet because I am scared of making it worse somehow but I am going to.

I feel like I have to yawn and sigh alot and get a funny feeling between my shoulder blades in my back. It is REALLY annoying.

It seems easier when I get excersize, sometimes.

I would advise trying to get into shape. It might help. Especially core stabiity stuff.. respiratory pysiotherapists can treat this disorder by retraining your breathing. There are none in my city that I know of yet but I am looking! Please update any progress :(

Also, 1 in 10 people has this don't feel alone.
Avatar universal
I'm looking through these forums because of all the agony my husband went through in trying to get a diagnosis for chest tightness, shortness of breath, etc.  He had a lot of trouble breathing while lying down, and could not take a deep breath.  He also has trouble clearing mucous out of his lungs.

He was rubber-stamped as having chronic bronchitis, but only showed a mildly affected breath test, which did not match up with the severity of his symptoms.  We went to the emergency room many many times, where he was put on a nebulizer, and over many months dosed with inhalers, steroids, etc., none of which helped at all.  He had X-rays, upper GI series, and a full cardiac workup.  None of these doctors or radiologists (or the first pulmonologit we saw) came up with anything else.

Finally he was correctly diaganosed by another pulmonologist as having a paralyzed diaphragm.  I urge anyone who has these symptoms, and does not respond to asthma treatments to have this checked out.  His pulmonologist could tell just by looking at the chest X-ray that this was likely the cause, and a "sniff" test confirmed it.

From what I've read, if it's due to idiopathic (no known cause) or bruising of the phrenic nerve, function should return, although it may take as long as a year and a half.  There isn't any treatment, but knowing what it is removes a lot of the anxiety.  He has found certain positions that allow gravity to pull the diaphragm aside so he can breathe better when he sleeps.

I've read where a fever or virus can irritate the phrenic nerve.  It's runs from the spine, down the shoulder and to the diaphragm in the chest.

Avatar universal
Please, no more saying it's anxiety or stress! I have the shortness of breath, racing heart, sensitive to touch skin, constant head rushes and sudden weight gain. Have had it for two months, out of the blue. Non-smoker, not overweight. I have had cardiologist, allergy and pulmonary testing...negative! It's not being out of shape or anxiety we have. You do not get severely short of breath from making your bed if you are out of shape! If one more doctor tries to say anxiety, have none, instead of finding a real diagnosis I am going to let them have it. The doctors in this country are the crazy ones. Too lazy to make a diagnosis and leave people suffering.

Exercising is not the answer all the time. There has to be a real diagnosis for this problem.
Avatar universal
I am so relieved to be hearing these stories.  I am a 33 year old, very active mother w/shortness of breath most days.  I run an average of 20 miles a week, play soccer and many other activities.  My shortness of breath goes in spurts.  Sometimes it's three weeks of all day long trouble.  Then I might have a couple of weeks where I notice I am breathing okay.  I also do the fake yawn thing to catch a full breath.  I have heard that so many times while reading this.  What is that?  I also have an extremely elevated heart rate, mostly while exercising, which is curious since I am so active.
Do any of you out there have any kind of heart diagnosis for this or is the general consensus that it's in the head?  It's so frustrating.
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