When does Asthma change to COPD, or does it?

I live in the forest in Berkshire and the tree pollen is/was particularly difficult in 2009 I had a really bad year; it was particularly difficult to breathe with all the usual hay fever symptoms.

I have had chest/breathing problems since 1990. I have always been treated for Asthma and seasonal hay fever. I was referred recently to my local Chest Clinic, as my breathing problems became worse and none of the Asthma treatment seemed to work. Since then I have had several appointments with the Chest Consultant, he told me that he could find nothing other than Asthma and he could not explain why I couldn’t breathe.

He too has always diagnosed/treated me for Asthma and seasonal hay fever. Over the years I have had, what my GP calls a ‘bucketful’ of Prednisolone, all the known hay fever medications, and more recently antibiotics. In the last attempt by the Chest Consultant he decided that I should take Prednisolone and antibiotics together, which I did, no change. During that time I also had several chest x-rays, lung functions tests and a CAT scan; During the lung functions tests, I had a reaction to the medication the technician gave me in the middle of the tests to see if that changed anything. I was sweaty, heart rate was up and I had right side chest pains however, the following tests were better, but not great.

On my last appointment with the Consultant, he told me that I had Psychological problems and there was nothing more he could do. I thought he was condescending and patronising and I told him so. During this debacle I told him that the medication in the middle of the LFT’s had actually helped me breath better. He grudgingly said that he would give me an anticholinergic bronchodilator but because it was for COPD and there was no way I had COPD because I had never smoked and because of that ‘it would be of no help to me’. He reluctantly prescribed Spiriva Respimat. I took this medication and the relief was almost instant, I had no chest constriction, I was able to breathe without having to think about it and after a day I had loads of energy back, and I feel so much better than I have for ten or more years. My question is was I miss-diagnosed? Is it possible to have COPD without having smoked?

3 Replies

  • Hello there. Sorry you're having such a hard time being heard. It's frustrating and frightening to be told there's nothing wrong with you when you know there blatantly is.

    Not sure if you've seen the post I left earlier today, but I think we might have a couple of things in common. I too respond better to anticholinergics and have a consultant who thinks I'm imagining it all. Three years ago, when I was first diagnosed and not getting the most out of ventolin, a locum GP prescribed atrovent on the offchance it would work - my chest tightness dissolved in minutes. Unfortunately it also made me hallucinate (once an entire monster galloping over a hill next to the M40!) so my GP withdrew it, but more recently a consultant prescribed spiriva (the long-acting version). It works for me.

    I also worried whether it meant I had COPD so I asked the cons. He told me spirometry (which it sounds like you've had) would reveal COPD and I definitely don't have it. If you ask they'll be able to tell you whether it was indicated for you.

    Hope that helps!

  • Yes it can turn to COPD even if you have never smoked.

    My husband has had asthma for well over 25 years and in the last year or so it became obvious that the asthma medications were just not working as well as before. That along with several bouts of pneumonia and other chest infections made him get a review. He was diagnosed with COPD and put on spirava(sp) and that seems to have made a difference for a while. He has never smoked in his life but was a welder for much of his working life so that may well have had its own impact.

  • Doesn't answer your copd question but......I was recently prescribed spiriva by my consultant - I've now been taken off it again but my GP has said it seems to be the latest ""hot favourite"" medication to prescribe - especially for asthmatics who are a little harder to manage.

    I too was categorically told that my lung function tests showed only asthma and that I most definitely do NOT have COPD.

    Hope things improve for you

    Good Luck!


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