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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.
Avatar universal
I have been experiencing the inability to take a deep breathe for the past few months. I am a 38 yo female who is about 40lbs overweight with all the weight around my middle....i have been to my dr, a cardiologist and the ER mant times for this....everyone keeps saying its a panic attack, but it can last all day long! I burp all the time and do get some relief from that, but it can literally wake me up in the middle of the night with me feaking out and not being able to expand my lungs

I feel like im crazy! any suggestions?
Avatar universal
I have suffered with breathing difficulties since I was about ten years old.  I remember asking a friend at the time if she needed to yawn sometimes in order to breathe.  Like many people on here I have had tests that found nothing wrong.  A few years ago I suffered such a bad attack that I was hospitalised overnight.  They found nothing wrong and just gave me some tablets (no idea what they were now). I believe this attack was stress related as it occurred when I was feeling paticularly under pressure and was accompanied by severe chest pains which became worse when laying down.

My doctor prescribed me with an asthma pump which definitely helps when I'm feeling desperate to get the air down, though it isnt a cure, just a temporary relief.  I find that yoga and breathing techniques help - when I was going to a class once a week I hardly experienced any problems.  I also find that aerobic exercise makes a big difference.  Relaxation techniques which relax the whole body by concentrating on one muscle at a time (such as 'corpse' pose in yoga) really help too.

I do feel that it is anxiety related, though sometimes I find I can't breathe when I feel quite relaxed.  At the moment I am having such problems breathing that I have strained the muscles in my back trying to get the air down.  Generally I am quite highly strung and a bit of a worrier and Ido think that this has an effect.  I have looked up Hyperventilation syndrome on google as suggested by another user and have found that this seems to sum up the condition.
Avatar universal
It's me again from a few posts back. I am checking this thread regularly because my breathing problem is getting worse and I am running out of options.

I did read up on the list of symptoms for Hyperventilation Syndrome and it seemed to match well what I have.

The latest update I have is, for the last two weeks because the weather is getting better and I had more time and energy, I have been pushing myself to get outdoors (where the air is more clean and fresh) and do some light exercise such as walking/biking slowly (because with my breathing problems, anything more makes me hyperventilate). An average of 2-3 hours a day, which is a lot for me!

I am sad and disappointed to report that, despite taking this general G.P. advice to "do some more exercise", my problem seem to be getting worse. My boyfriend tells me when he watches me sleep, I don't seem to breathe AT ALL, there is no deep breathing or regular breathing whatsoever. When awake and trying to take a deep breath, it feels like my chest is enclosed in a very tight girdle.

I frankly think the major reason is the building I am currently living in, because the problem has been aggravated since when I moved in almost a year ago. Very old, mold-infected, second-hand smoke everywhere and in the middle of downtown (and thank goodness I am finally moving out in two months' time!).

The point is, if the doctors still can't or won't help you (like mine), and you believe it is outside of "stress" and "lack of exercise", maybe it has to do with your environment (mold, smoke, dust, other allergens etc.)

I am secretly scared my lung functions are somehow deteriorating and the effects irreversible. You know, like the effects of smoking where the capacity to exchange air in your lungs is going away, because the delicate structures there are getting blocked or rigid.

I am tempted to get my hands on those drugs you inhale to relieve asthma symptoms, because it is not fun feeling like you are suffocating most hours of the day.

Thanks for reading and good luck to all.

Avatar universal
Who amongst you has taken Accutane sometime in their past?  The medical community is largely unaware of it's LATENT side effects on mucotaneous tissue etc.
Avatar universal
Oh yeah - one other thing: Yes, I have been on accutane.  I can't remember specifically, but there's a pretty good chance I was on accutane shortly before I started having these breathing problems.  Even though I was diagnosed with slight asthma when I was very young, I didn't have any real problem until about 5 years ago when I had lived in a new apartment for about a year, went on accutane, and had severe problems with allergies.
Avatar universal
I finally decided to google to find out what my breathing problem could be.  Looks like I found the place!

My doctor has me on all sorts of asthma related medications.  I was diagnosed with 'slight asthma' when I was very young, but never had a problem with it until I moved from Buffalo, NY to Santa Fe, NM.  I first suspected my apartment which had been flooded a few times and had suspicious spreading dark spots in the carpet, however my doctor didn't think that was it.  He thought it was allergies and asthma, so I'm on singulair advair, allegra, and albuterol.

I don't feel like these medications are doing very much for me.  Maybe they're helping some.  All I know is every so often, I have trouble breathing even while I'm on these meds.  I yawn a lot, but sometimes I even struggle to yawn and end up frustrated.  I'm very active and am in decent shape.  I dance and work out regularly.  I'm a 33yo male.  I too feel like I can breathe a lot better after I burp.  Alka Seltzer seems to help better than albuterol sometimes!  I just took some now and I'm getting some satisfying breaths.  When I have trouble breathing while I'm bike riding, I get a little relief when I raise my arms up in the air.  I feel like it increases my lung capacity.  Getting in good shape seems to mitigate the problem, but doesn't solve it.  I can't say that I've had any tightness in my chest, but I haven't really paid attention either.

My mom believes I have sleep apnia as well which she herself has been diagnosed with.  The quality of my sleep seems to fluctuate with the seasons: best over the summer, worst over the winter.  I also seem to be allergic to most everything.  I've been exposed to some second hand smoke on a regular basis recently.

Avatar universal
Hi hard to breathe, many think it can't possibly be a medication they took years ago.  Accutane was first used as a chemotherapy agent for certain cancers.  Chemotherapy is tolerated differently by different individuals. Chemotherapy is extremely toxic as I'm sure you know. You have no idea of the problems it can cause.  I just found this site and noticed many young people with  some of the same difficulties. They sound ominously similar to the victims of Accutane.  For more information(lots of people haven't caught on yet) go to the ACCUTANE ROACCUTANE ACTION GROUP FORUM.  There we help one another with our unusual symptoms.  Like many here, if you cannot get a diagnosis (there is no diagnostic test for Accutane's latent side effects)you might look to Accutane as the culprit for all your strange aches, pains, breathing problems.  The forum has all the info you need.  Huge lawsuits are pending all over the world.  Inform yourself.  Patti Lodes
Avatar universal
CURED, IN-RECOVERY, I believe....

I was here back in December when I had many of the same problems that you are all talking about now.  I posted an inquiry that has now been lost to time, but I told myself that after I figured out what the problem was that I would come back here and tell someone- in case someone else could be helped by my problem.  I now find another thread on the subject, so here's my input:

I wish I could tell you with certainty exactly what the main problem was, but that's harder to say.  I went to the ER four times due to shortness of breath, which usually (at first) got in the evenings, and would feel like I had insufficient oxygen for about 6-10 hours at a time.  I saw many, many doctors.  I went to an executive medicine place where I paid thousands of dollars to have every test concievable done.  This included heart thalium tests, cat scans, MRI's, blood work, etc.  They found nothing and became extremely confident that my problem was anxiety, but I knew that I wasn't feeling "anxious".  I knew there had been stress in my life, but I was controlling it as best as I felt I could and certainly wasn't having the "panic attacks" they felt would explain my shortness of breath.

I wasn't going to just let myself suffer, so I pushed to have referrals.  I went on to see pulmonologists and allergists, gastrointestinal doctors, etc.  

To make a long story short, here's what I can tell you.

1) I learned (the hard way) that modern medical science immediately wants to check the heart with an xray and bloodwork when you say "shortness of breath", and if they don't find a problem then they don't want to take you seriously.  This is especially true if you go to doctors that rely on scanning devices like CT and MRI, which only seems to puff up their chests in confidence.  Some of you will actually have heart problems, which is not what I had, so please keep in mind my problem and solution may not be yours.

2) I was put on Paxil CR for stress.  While I *do not* believe that stress was the immediate cause of my problem, I can now say honestly that the stress of having this severe of a problem was hampering my ability to recover well.  This kind of medication may not be a bad route to include in a recovery if you are feeling worn down.  In other words, I don't think it will hurt if you think your problem really is serious.

3) I was put on sleeping medication, Lunesta (3mg) and Melatonin (1mg).  When people would ask me "how's your sleep?" I would always say "fine".  This was because I knew with confidence that sleep wasn't the core problem, but I can say now honestly that my sleep wasn't what it should have been and getting a regular nights sleep has been important in my healing process.  The lunesta keeps me asleep (soundly, not waking up all the time), and the melatonin helps me to accomplish the "restful" aspect of sleep- i.e. waking up feeling truly rested.  The lunesta was prescribed, the melatonin I had to find on my own.  You can get it at your local drug store, but be warned that 3mg is common and that was really high for me.  It didn't hurt, but be prepared to feel that womby-tomby feeling the next day if it's too much for you- not that that's a bad feeling when you've been feeling like garbage from shortness of breath.  I recommend finding 1mg at a health store.

4) I started to consider that basic nutrition may have been a problem about 3 months ago.  I noticed that when I ate at a SuperSalad restaurant (salad bar type place) for a couple days around the same time (just a coincidence) that I felt better for a few days.  I also knew that my diet had changed around the time I started getting sick months earlier.  The strange thing was I thought my diet was improved, because I was eating more whole grain bread, getting more excercise, etc.  Some nutritional things to consider:

A)  Vitamin B1.  If you buy your bread from a supermarket it is often fortified with the "vitamins that were taken out due to the manufacturing process".  If you do not, like I did not, I was buying all of my bread from a local bakery (I thought better) but I now think I was lacking in some of the B vitamins- specifically B1 and B6.  I now know that a lack of B1 can cause shortness of breath, and a lack of B6 can cause a wide variety of problems.

B)  Magnesium.  Calcium is used by your body to make muscles contract, and magnesium is used to make them relax.  I started using a product called "Natural Calm" which is basically powdered magnesium that you can use to make a drink with.  Magnesium pills may work the same way but I didn't use them.  Interesting, Natural Calm is marketed as an "anti-stress" product, and I can honestly say that when I first started using it that I felt the stress loss.  It does help your muscles to relax, which can have an effect on the severity of the shortness of breath.  The idea here is that muscle constriction I believe was playing a role.  I also have been a "restless legs syndrome" type of person most of my life, which I think was helped with this.  Don't think of this as a drug, btw, which was my problem which kept me away from this kind of stuff.  Magnesium isn't a foreign body working in your body, it is a normal part of your diet.

C) Vitamin C.  I never did like to eat fruit, and I have known that my main source of Vitamin C has probably been tomatoes for a while, but having enough of this vitamin isn't entirely the question.  It's an antioxident that in high quantities counteracts the effects of the damage being done in your body by "whatever".  I found research that your body's bowel tolerance increases in proportion to how sick you are (i.e. you can take more without getting getting the runs when you are sicker).  I found that taking 8-12 grams per day made me feel a lot better on days I was feeling bad (that's 8000-12000 milligrams).  That's a lot of pills, but I did it using the powdered crystals you can get at a nutrition store.

D) Pomegranate juice.  For one reason it's a good antioxident, for another it's high in vitamin C, and there's one other reason.  Your body's blood veins (capilaries, like those in your lungs) are a combination of stiff and elastic.  Someone told me that pomegranate has something that can improve the stiffness, and with that stiffness means less of the engorging of blood that is part of the asthmatic shortness of breath response.  I have found that it seems to help with me.  I drink a small cup once or twice a day.

E)  Glyco-nutrients (Ambrotose).  Look it up for details.  Briefly, the idea is that there is more than one kind of basic sugar in nature, and that 8 have been identified as necessary for the human nervous system.  This isn't like table sugar.  The idea is that you can boost your nervous system's regeneration, which I believe was related to my problem.  I had many nervous system symptoms, such as fatigue, minor shaking in the hands towards the end, tingling in the hands, etc.

F)  Good multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplements.  After reading about all the kinds of physical disorders you can get simply by having gaps in your nutrition, I went hard on basic supplements.  I'm not talking about herbs and new-age kind of stuff.  I mean the basic stuff your body needs to function properly.  In the end of I wound up using "Nature's Plus" product "Source of Life" which has so much stuff in it that it helps me to not have to take a million pills.  In the beginning though, taking large quantities of various types of vitamins (particularly B1, and Vitamin C) seemed good separately, but then there was a point where I knew what I needed.  I CREDIT THIS MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE FOR IMPROVING MY HEALTH... if you exlude God.

G) Probiotics.  I didn't take the intestinal flora very seriously before I was sick, but now I do.  I started taking a product called "Digest Gold" that has digestive enzymes, as well as the bacterial lacto-bac. (I won't even attempt to spell it).  Keep in mind that if your intestinal tract gets out of wack your intestines can have a higher-than-normal yeast count.  This yeast feeds on some of the B vitamins that you would normally get in your diet.  Helpful bacterial can actually reduce and balance the yeast growth, which can be thrown out of wack by a lot of different things- most notably anti-biotics which kill off the good, necessary bacteria.  There are some other things in the digestive enzymes mix that also helps in this area.  Something else I did not know until recently is that some of the bacteria in your gut actually provides some nutritional value in terms of the biproducts they make that it appears you can't get through your food- i.e. they're important for other reasons.

5) Acid Reflux / LPR.  The first serious medical diagnosis that I ever got was this one.  My pulmonologist first suspected it about three months ago, but I couldn't believe it because I never felt "heartburn".  I did feel like my lungs were dry, irritated, no mucous, etc, but I now know that this feeling was NOT I thought it was from what it felt like.  I thought it was just because the heating system would kick on in the home for the season and the dust would spill out and my lungs would get irritated and dry, then sore, but it was much more than that.  I was scoped by a gastro-doctor (to prove to myself that the pulmonologist was right) and put on Nexium after finding evidence of damage due to acid.  It wasn't long before the burning in my lungs went away and was replaced by a lesser heartburn, and I realized that the irritation in my lungs was actually in my throat and was bad enough to not be noticed as heartburn.  When acid gets high enough in the throat, it can further aggrevate the problem by inflaming the throat near the larynx, which can cause a physical impediment, which adds to the problem but isn't the whole problem.  The nexium has been helping, as does eating red delicious apples (seriously).  I think one of the causes was also that I would excercise, chug a bottle of water, and then lie down on the couch.  (Bad).  It is interesting to note that the nerve that runs down by the throat which is affected by heartburn is apparently linked with Asthma, and that a large percentage of people who are diagnosed with Asthma also have acid reflux (I don't remember the exact figure but if memory serves it's thought to be something around 30% or higher).

6) Allergies.  My second serious medical diagnosis was allergies to dust, dust mites, etc.  There were some other lesser allergies to some molds, grasses, etc, but dust was by far the worst.  This came as a surprise to me.  I never felt I was allergic to dust or anything else because I didn't have a runny nose very often, but I can tell you honestly that now that I pay more attention to dust in in the home that it helps.  I mean vacuuming, washing the bed linens more often, etc, replacing the pillow, etc.  The allergist tried putting me on Astelin, Nasonex, and Advair.  I didn't start taking this medication until I had finished my allergy testing, which for me meant I was mostly feeling better with all the other things I was doing by this point, but it's interesting to note that the Advair (asthma medication) had a drastic affect on my breathing on a pulmonary function test- even after I thought I was mostly well.  On a side note, after a few months I began to notice that during the more "severe" attacks that my nose would plug up due to inflamation at the same time.  Happen to you?

7) Dehydration.  I knew that whenever I was having a "bad episode" of shortness of breath that I would find myself frequently urinating.  Doesn't make much sense to me, even now, but I did notice it.  I drank bottled water almost all the time, and mostly made myself drink only when I felt "thirsty", but I also knew that my thirst response wasn't what it should be.  Dehydration is one of the causes of shortness of breath.  I started drinking about 1.5 bottles of water each morning to make sure I got a "good start".  I'd do about 75% of a bottle, and then another (with my vitamin c) later.  The reason for 75% is because I realized that when I was younger I would just drink what felt right, but that later in life I started drinking "a bottle", which was a little more than felt comfortable.  I believe this had an impact on the acid reflux matter- not drinking too much at a time.  So, essentially what this means is I try to get a good start with water every day now.  I've also taking the time to measure myself by weight at night before going to sleep, and in the morning after waking up, and have noticed that I lose about 1.5 lbs of weight over the course of the night due to water.  This is something to consider and is one reason why drinking water particularly in the morning every day seems to help.

8) Ensure.  Ensure is a product in which you get more-or-less "balanced nutrition" in an approximately 250 cal drink (chocolate, vanilla, whatever).  You can find them at your local grocery store in a lot of different flavors.  It's vitamin packed and has a good balance of fat, carb, etc.  Ok, I'm only 33 (male) and I know a lot of you are thinking this is for old people, but I really suggest you try this.  It helps you to round off your nutrition in a way that is highly hydrated.  This also helps with constipation, which I have been noticing more recently occurs more frequently with acid reflux type feelings.  That is, if I keep things moving I have less problems with the acid feeling in my lower throat.  Interesting, when I have that feeling, I don't notice the burning first- I notice the "offness" in my breathing accompanied with a feeling of bloating.  This is not something that is a real problem for me anymore lately but I mention it anyway.  I am currently drinking three ensure's a day, one for breakfast, one for lunch, I eat a regular dinner, and one before bed (about 1-2 hours before).  I don't need to do it religiously, but leaning towards that goal works for me.

9) Massage.  Not as a good thing, but as a bad thing.  I worked at a "stressful job", so my wife (good as she is) would frequently rub my shoulders, which were often sore.  Interestingly enough, right before I really went down hill, one of the nervious system problems I was having was extreme soreness in my sholder nerves, and I could tell the massage was making it worse. I would ask my wife to stop massaging them because "they hurt too much", but then I would feel better enough to ask for a massage, and I would go down hill again.  It came to my attenion a few months back that a nerve involved in breathing runs through this area, and that damage can affect breathing, and I now take my massages avoiding this specific area (the base of the neck where the neck meets the shoulders).


Last but not least, I can honestly tell you that when I skip eating at SuperSalad for more than three or four days that I have a kind of regression.  After all the nutritional attention there still seems to be something in a Salad with kidney beans, garbonzo beans, diced beats, and lettuce that just can't be replaced with a supplement.  I can't explain it, but I recommend "live food" as often as you can get it.  I believe nutrition is the key, whatever the cause was.  I think your body has to be the one to fix itself in this case.  And I recommend you consider prayer if you have not already.


John Bushnell
Avatar universal
Btw, I never took Accutane- as far as I am aware.
Avatar universal
If you've been trying to fight this for a while, you've probably already done a lot of research about the causes of shortness of breath, but it probably won't hurt for me to list what I came up with during my experience.  I will also talk about what I did to try to combat the effects.

Shortness of breath - can be caused by:

1) Heart failure.  If your heart can't pump enough blood, you may feel shortness of breath.  This can also include if certain small arteries around the heart are blocked.  The lack of oxygen by the tissues that these small arteries serves triggers the shortness of breath feeling in the mind.

I did not have this problem so I did nothing to try to combat it.

2) Dehydration.  If you don't have enough water in your body, then it can cause you to not pump enough blood around due to insuffient pressure.  Keep in mind that chronic dehydration can take 3-7 days of "sufficiently high" water to recover.  Your body doesn't just fix dehydration immediately.  This is also responsible for fatigue, lightheadedness standing up, etc.

I now have a consistent water regime every day, that starts with water strongly in the morning.  I tried drinking even amounts throughout the day and that didn't work well compared to drinking more in the mornings.

3) A blood clot in the lungs or brain.  The tissues that lack oxygen signal the shortness of breath response.

I did not have this problem so I did nothing to combat it.

4) Too little iron in your blood.  Iron oxydizes and is used to move oxygen throughout your body.  If there isn't enough of it you will feel shortness of breath.

I tried taking iron supplements for a while, but then realized too much iron may have been an issue and now I just get a smaller more regular dose in my multi-vitamin.

5) Too much iron in your blood.  Apparently the shortness of breath feeling doesn't always come from too little oxygen so much as it comes from carbon-dioxide levels, the last stage of the respiration process.  If you have too much iron you can feel shortness of breath, like it's time to take your next breath because the high presence of carbon dioxide coming and then dropping off says so, but you really have sufficient oxygen in the blood.  This is related to hyperventilation.

6) Hyperventilation.  If your breathing pattern gets out of wack you can find yourself breathing consciously, but not exactly right.  

You may find, as I did, that holding your breath as you can do so can reset the problem to some degree for about 5-15 minutes.  I recommend you try this.  There may be an urge to breathe, but if it doesn't get increasingly worse, just ignore it for as long as you feel comfortable.  See if you feel relief.  If you do, try to focus on NOT thinking about breathing.  Although doctors will tell you hyperventilation is a sure sign of anxiety, and I'm sure this can be a cause, I know from my case that it's not the main cause.  When your body chemistry is basically out of wack there can be consequences.  Focus on hydration and your iron levels for this.  You may want to get a blood pressure monitor.  I noticed that when I was particularly having problems my blood pressure was unusually low and my heartrate low as well.  If you have blood pressure problems when you stand up, consider limiting your vitamin E intake (causes elasticity in blood vessels) and get more pomagranate juice to strengthen the vessel walls.  I also used Pycnogenol and Masquelier's True-OPCs and sensed some benefit at times.

7) Hiatal hernia.  This is where your stomach has bulged up through your diaphram causing a kind of diaphram movement obstruction.  It also makes your lower esophagus more liable to damage from stomach acid due to the unusual configuration.

There are a number of techniques to try to push the stomach down.  Some of them require a partner (do a search on the web).  I found significant relief once after a partner did one.  Although I may have had a hiatal hernia, I now think it's more likely that the compression of the stomach downward releaved pressure on the lungs and on the esophagus enabling less acid reflux.  It's worth doing either way.

8) Asthmatic response.  There are different kinds of asthma, but the one I am talking about here is where the small avioli in the lungs are blocked from functioning properly.  This is caused by two factors that I know of.  A) Constriction of muscles that line the small blood vessels.  B) Constriction of the airways due to engorging of blood due to the histimine response involved in allergies- that is, an allergin gets into the blood and histimine goes to the source.  Once there histimine encourages blood to collect which swells the tissues and blocks the airways.

I combated that problem in a number of ways.  Magnesium ensures that the muscle contraction problem can relax and release.  Antihistamines keep the histimine levels down.  Pomagranate juice strengthens the cell walls to keep them the right size, and also with Vitamin C couteracts the damage of whatever might be there to cause the histamine response.  I also got serious about limiting dust in my environment, which also can include allergins from outside.  I have air filters in the house, I use allergin filters in my A/C now, cleaned the air ducts, etc.  I am also on Advair now which is an asthma medication and had tangible measurable effects in the DR's office.

9) Damage to the nerve at the base of the neck.  This nerve is involved in diaphram and/or lung function, and once damaged or bruised can impair breathing.

I no longer take my massages at the base of the neck (at least not frequently) and use Ambrotose and Manapol to try to speed nervous system repair.

10) Damage to the nerve at the base of the esophagus.  This nerve is tightly connected to the nerves used by your lungs.  If it is inflamed, it can cause problems.  Although this can be caused by acid reflux, if you're having larger nervous system problems it can be part of a systemic problem.  Fight acid reflux effects using apples and if needed a prescription like nexium.  I believe nexium was very important for me.  However, I know that I had many other nervous system symptoms, so the problem likely didn't begin with acid reflux it just ended there.  So Ambrotose is used to fight this indirectly, though nervous tissue repair.  I also used DGL (deglycyrrizinated Licorice Root Extract) which helps increase mucous levels in your body and esophagus.  Using ensure helps me to eat foods that don't scratch on the way down.  Melatonin and Lunesta help me to sleep productively for repair.  Proper hydration is important in acid reflux because if you don't have enough your body cannot produce some of the things it makes which counteracts the acid it makes later in the digestive process.  Eating smaller meals and avoiding "bad foods" (particularly fatty foods) helps this too.

11) A brain problem.  I spoke to a brain surgeon and the best way to explain it is sorta like he did.  The brain is a complex organ.  When it gets sick, you have all kinds of problems.  Having many nervous system symptoms can sometimes just be a sign that your brain is in trouble.

Paxil CR helps with stress.  It does this by limiting seritonin's effects on the nerves that recieve it.  Medical studies show that people under stress have nerves that have shrunk in size and effectiveness in parts of the brain such as the hypothalimus (please pardon my spelling, I'm not a doctor) which can affect hormone production.  Without proper hormone production things can go very off track.  SSRIs such as Paxil CR have been shown to over time allow these nerve cells to increase back in size and in number of connections.  I also believe Ambrotose and Manapol help in this area as well, as does good sleep.

12) Candida Yeast Infection.  This is a weird one, I know, but let me explain how.  In the gut there are yeast, and they can overgrow.  They can also overgrow outside of the gut.  For example, I had a problem two years ago (maybe not a coincidence) in which my hands and feet were swelling up.  This happens (at least it was theorized in my case) due to swelling of the lympth nodes due to infiltration by renegate yeasts and or bacterias.  Once the lympth system is somewhat compromised this can lead to mild nerve damage in the feet and hands, tingling and numbness, and also swelling in some cases.  If you think your cause is bacterial than antibiotics may be important.  If you think it's not, then yeast may be responsible.  There are a number of yeast fighting solutions out there, I used Caprylic Acid, Pau D'Arco, and Grapefruit Seed Extract.  I didn't mention this earlier because I only used it for two weeks and am not sure it helped.  I can tell you, however, that there's a so called "die off" effect that happens when you first start this kind of regimine, and I experienced it for myself.  It was the lowest point I had been to, and it was very very bad, but I did start improving afterward.

13) Problems in the sinius.  If you have problems in the nerves in your nose, it can lead to problems with the lung and esophagus nerves.  They're all kind of linked.  At one point I was diagnosed with Allergic Rhinitis, for example, and I knew that breathing trouble began daily in my nose.  Try to focus on getting your nose in good shape if it isn't.  My research found that a study done by (I believe) the Mayo Clinic found that in a large number of patients evaluated with sinus problems that fungus of one type or another was found living in the sinus.  So, if you get fungus (like molds) in your sinus, how do you kill them?  That's a good question.  I used the Caprylic Acid intended for the Candida overgrowth to also address this problem (theoretically).  I also used some nasal products like NeilMed's Saline Sinus Rinse.

14) Problems in the teeth.  This is another weird one.  Did you chip a tooth recently?  Have a cavity you are ignoring?  Doctors will tell you that one important factor in keeping your heart in good shape is keeping your teeth in good shape.  The nerves in the teeth can affect nerves surrounding your heart.  

I use good vitamin supplements including calcium to fight this.  I knew that I had a chipped tooth, but never did do anything about it.  In the end I believe the calcium and vitamin/mineral supplements helped compensate, as did the Ambrotose and Manapol.  

15) Fast metabolism.  This is another weird one.  You can also acquire shortness of breath because you are "too physically fit", or more specifically that your fitness level changed rapidly.  Rapid weight loss accompanied by switching to smaller more frequent meals can put you in a state where you are predisposed to hyperventilation due to the unusually low breathing needs in comparison to what you are used to.  

The solution is not to get fat again so much as understanding the problem.  In my case I stepped away from the excercise regimine while I was in recovery, and I still haven't gotten back into that.  I was losing a lot of weight while I was sick so I stabalized that with sufficient food.  Maintaining my weight was a first step in my recovery, and I don't know how much it had an effect.

16) B1 (Thiamine) Deficiency.  Vitamin B1 is necessary by your body and must be acquired in your diet.  With too little you get a condition called BeriBeri, which incidentally has the following symptoms:  Appetite Loss, Tiredness, Irritibility, Muscle Aches, Limb pains, Swollen joints, Hand paralysis, Food paralysis, Heart problems - which includes rapid heart beat and shortness of breath.  Although not as directly related to shortness of breath, B6 is particularly important because it must be acquired in your diet every day and plays roles in how the other vitamins are metabolized.

I fought this condition with B1 supplements, a B-multi-vitamin, the Caprylic acid to control intestinal flora levels (which eat B vitamins for their food), eating the new Activa yogurts (for regularity), and consider other efforts such as DGL helping (improvement of the mucous in the intestines for better health and absorbtion) and Ambrotose (improving nerve functions in intestinal area) and Melatonin (improving seratonin levels in gut - most seratonin is in gut where most is made- Melatonin is converted back into seratonin through a chemical process) to have helped in this area.

17) Bronchitis or Pneumonia.  Either of these conditions will result in damage to the tissues of the lungs and/or obstruction through thick or excessive mucous.  A doctor should be able to rule them out.

18) "Valley Fever".  This is a fungal infection of the lungs.  It's called valley fever because it's common in a certain valley in California.  If you think you have this, a doctor will likely tell you almost immediately you do not simply because it's so rare.  Valley Fever also refers to one specific type of fungus, to most people, but I think you can get other fungal infections that have similar symptoms.  I used the Caprylic Acid to try to challenge this possibility (don't know if I had it or not, but I know I was cleaning out a moldy part of my house before I got sick).  Also Vitamin C fights the damage caused by the mold so that it doesn't make you "as-sick", and putting good bacteria into the gut helps with reducing and killing fungus in general.  Overall health through multi-vitamins I consider to be my primary way of attacking this possiblity, as well as sleep.  There was about two weeks when I was trying something my father in law suggestion.  Call it old folk medicine if you like.  You pinch the rind of an orange in inhail it.  It burns a little, and has an antiseptic effect like your orange oil cleaners from the store do to get into the lungs and kill things off.  If you think you have something living in there I suggest you try it.  I'm not sure how much it may or may not have helped me.

19) LPR.   This is related to acid reflux but more severe.   It means the acid has been making it up your throat far enough to irritate your larynx.  Amounts of stomach acid can also go back s down your windpipe to damage your lungs.  This can also be a cause of sinus inflamation due to small amounts of the acid being exhailed through your nose.  The tightening of your throat can be a powerful feeling of shortness of breath, and damage to your lungs from the stomach acid can take a while to repair (if it gets that far).

I fought this problem, which in my case was diagnosed by a pulmonologist and a gastro doctor, with Nexium.  I tried AcipHex before and it had bad side effects for me.

20) Thyroid Problem.  I wasn't dignosed with this, but it can cause shortness of breath.  It was one of the first things they looked at.

21) Nitrate poisoning.  This is from fertilizers like the stuff used in your lawn.  If you have this your blood will become a thick chocolate like color.  I'm not sure if there's a direct connection to shortness of breath but I mention it because it may have been related to my personal problem.  I was exposed.  Something to consider.

22) The weather.  Ever get worse on rainy days?  There are a lot of explanations I've heard, ranging from fungus repopulating to lower air pressure needed to boulster your veins.

In my case I did notice this.  The days I felt worst were days before it rained or when it first started raining or just after.  If the problem was a fungus the Caprylic acid went after that.  If it's blood pressure hydration fought that.  If it's blood pressure due to weak blood vessels the Pomagranate juice, Pycnogenol, and Tru-OPCs went after that.  I also started taking Vitamin E much more sparingly (increasing elasticity of blood vessels).

23) Humidifiers.  I would use one when my lungs "got dry", but now I know that it increased the populations of dust mites that I was allergic to.  I also know now that when I needed the humidifier it was MAINLY BECAUSE I WAS CHRONICALLY DEHYDRATED.  Solve the primary problem and drink enough water, especially in the mornings, to combat this.  Watch out if you use a humidifier and make sure you're not creating another allergen problem.  I personally believe these allergens can cause your blood vessels in your lungs to dialate and then permanently stretch them to make the condition chronic.

24) Electrolyte Imbalance.  If you don't have enough potassium, or have too much sodium, or don't have enough calcium, or have too much calcium, you can wind up with an electrolyte imbalance.  This can result in shortness of breath in certain cases.  It's not only a matter of getting "enough", it's a matter of not urinating out what you have.  If you get too much salt in your diet your body may try to retain too much water.  This may case a sharp increase in blood pressure.  Your body may try to correct the problem by sending more blood to your kidneys.  This will result in more urination, a loss of salt, and a consequent loss of the other two essential electrolytes.  If you don't have enough you may suffer the effects.

I recommend drinking Pedialyte and/or Sports Drinks if you have any concern there.  I did at one point.  This is also a reason why dehydration may become a chronic concern- or I should say this could be a cause- and that could lead to shortness of breath all on its own.

Also consider that if you are simply allergic to something in your diet, your body may produce a similar response (urination).  However, before you start getting concerned about a new food allergy and try to identify it, consider why your body may have become more susceptible to allergic reaction.  This is where nutrition is again important, as is Vitamin C.

25) Diabetes.  If you have too much sugar in your blood your body can try to urinate it out.  Even if you're not severely diabetic this can still happen.  This can lead to dehydration and shortness of breath.  

Watch your sugar intake and get enough water and vitamins.  Also consider that chromium such as that in chromium picolinate is used to regulate your sugar levels to keep them from getting too high or too low.  You may need to supplement this in your diet for a little while.  Your doctor can test your blood sugar levels to see if you have a problem.  Mine did and said "well, it went back down so you're not diabetic, but it stayed high for an unusually long time.. so you just tend to run high I guess".  Well, it still wasn't good for me, and I used chromium picolinate to deal with it.  

26) Other medications.  Ever wonder why all medications carry dire warnings about side effects, and that often one of them is dehydration?  I've started to realize recently this is because if your body doesn't like something it will urinate it out as much as it can, which means dehydration.  This then means fatigue, weight loss, and "in severe cases, shortness of breath".  

Consider that other medications you are taking may be related to the problem- worry less about vitamins and minerals as they are native to you.  Make sure you get enough water despite the losses.


Can't think of anything else.  This amounts to much of what I learned from this process.  If you apply this to yourself you may find something that you didn't think of.


John Bushnell

Avatar universal

Element of Total Remedy For Me       Perceived Relative Value
------------------------------       ------------------------
Good Multi-Vitamin/Multi-Mineral     50
Nexium (Heartburn)                   44
SouperSalad (Wide-Spectrum Salad)    43?  Maybe higher
High-Dose Vitamin C                  40
Melatonin (Sleep, Stress, Healing)   36?  Maybe higher
Lunesta (Sleep)                      35
Consistent Hydration With Water      33
Magnesium (Natural Calm)             30
Allergy Medication (Astelin/Nasonex) 28
Asthma Medication (Advair)           25
Pomagranate Juice                    20?  Maybe higher
Paxil CR (Stress)                    15
Digestive Enzyme and Probiotic       13
Ambrotose (Nervous system repair)    10?  Maybe higher
Ensure (Nutrition)                   10?  New.  Maybe higher.
Flaxseed Capsules                    9
Avoiding Massage of Shoulders        9

For the record, I didn't start taking this all at once.  I felt myself turn a major corner around about 2 months ago (3 months into the condition) when I combined SouperSalad, Paxil CR, Magnesium, Lunesta, and Melatonin, and a broad-spectrum B vitamin.  I continued to improve with the addition of everything else.  I think it all helps.

Best regards,

John Bushnell
Avatar universal
I checked this thread again today because I started the morning again feeling I have no options left to improve my condition, until I could move out of this apartment 45 days from now. Presently, most nights are like last night, where I wake up halfway, my chest feeling compressed and gasping for breath. This ordeal is really consuming my everything, and I spend a lot of my waking hours trying to think of what else I haven't tried yet.

hardtobreathe: My symptoms sound very similar to yours. Especially the mold problem. I did try to sand and cut away some of the black mold on the floors of my apartment when I first moved in (although plenty still remains.) That and a basic HEPA air purifier seemed to alleviate my skin problems, but the breathing and energy levels continued to go downhill. It has been 11 months and I have a hunch this is the main culprit.

Bushnell: THanks for taking the time to write out and share all you have found. I share the same sentiments that the doctors don't seem to take you seriously and they tend to short-circuit the course of diagnosis by a simple x-ray or heart scan (which I have been through). I have tried some of your suggestions already (melotonin for better sleep, multivitamins etc.) and from what you said I may try magnesium and the other health supplement next, among others. It's also interesting you mentioned massage didn't help, which I will make note of (see more below).

Other things I tried and would like to share
Asthma inhaler (Terbutaline Sulfate): Used it about 3x daily for the last 2 weeks but I don't think it helped, or only marginally. On the other hand my sense of smell is gone and I think I started imagining smells that aren't there, on using it. Felt drugged too. Also, I had asthma symptoms when small, but it has been 15+ years since then.

"Respir Solution" (daily supplement which is a mixture of herbal extracts which supposedly help with "asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions): On it for the last 2 weeks but I don't notice a significant difference.

Massage: I receive it regularly because I also have chronic shoulder and upper-back soreness, but I don't think it makes the breathing conditions worse. On the other hand, having someone press on your chest intensely as you lie on your belly and breathe out, releasing as you breathe in, and repeating it for several times, seem to soothe the tightness in the chest.

Others: fruits, raw vegetables, water (the inhaler does nothing except making me super thirsty), well balanced and unprocessed foods. I have been doing all of this and especially more so lately, without seeing any marked improvements.

A bit disappointing, that so much effort and dollars going into this and still stuck so far.

Hope this helps.

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