Asthma UK community forum
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First time poster, need help!

Hello everyone! First time posting here, hope you can help me.

I smoked between 10 and 40 a day for a year and a half, it's nearly three years ago I quit now, and before smoking I was super fit, never had any issues breathing at all, I could run ten miles and swim long distance etc. I started out smoking normal cigarettes then changed to menthol ones after a few months, one day, I woke up, realising my chest had gone tight, so I smoked three in a row and stuck my head out the window, and the issue went.

An hour later, I had my head next to a pillow which was often sat on by my friend's cat, and my chest went tight again [I have read this is an asthma symptom]

A few weeks after that I managed to quit for good, and for two whole days my lungs felt better, I could breathe well.

Then, I began to get out of breath easier than before, like when I danced or ran suddenly.

Months later, I began to get out of breath just sitting still or lying down.

A year later I was like it nearly constantly, my nose, throat and lungs all seem constantly constricted by something. It was at this point I began to feel the need to literally gasp for breath or take huge yawns to get enough air in.

Two years later after my lungs began to hurt just standing up suddenly and feeling like I was suffocating when trying to sleep, I rang for an ambulance and got taken in overnight to A and E. They said my sats were 99, my oxygen level was fine, and my peak flow astounded them, supposedly it should be 601, but mine was 815, then 860.

I got let out being told it was anxiety [it isn't/ wasn't, I know the difference between a panic attack and actually not being able to get air in.

So I went to my GP again, who thought it was gerd, after weeks of pills for that I'm, no better.

The odd thing is my peak flow, when my chest goes tight [which means tighter than usual, not just normal] my peak flow has gone down to 700 ish, but it comes back up again to over 800, sometimes 900 if I try really hard [on my home eu meter] so I'm guessing that is asthma making my airways constrict, but why are they constricting?

If I warm up properly, I can run for miles now [something I couldn't do when I smoked] but when I run it still feels like my lungs are only half inflating if that, like I get to a maximum point of air intake and it won't open any more, but I can keep going.

I am sure I can also taste tobacco in the back of my throat when I go out in the cold too, it's a very recognisable taste and I haven't touched a c

cigarette for so long, is it possible my lungs are blocked with mucus and tobacco? I very often have a runny nose too.

I take a green inhaler [believe it is called salbutemol?] excuse the speeling please, and a blue relief inhaler, but the green one does very little to ease breathing, and the blue one only makes a difference if I feel my chest go tight, it does NOTHING for my every day life. I was on a powder medication too [my nurse said it was for COPD patients, a little white and red pot with a twist nozzle] but that made my lungs ache every time I took it.

I was sitting at my work desk earlier today too, and I had an overwhelming urge to gasp for air, so I had to for a few seconds [got me a strange look from my boss] but I wasn't physically doing anything, I just felt that I wasn't getting enough air in, and I wasn't panicking at all so I know it isn't anxiety. I am sure it was from smoking because as I said, I was super fit and never even had problems running in cold weather or problems with pollen so I don't know what to do. It's a horrible daily feeling. And my GP is useless, I told him I had been gasping fo breath for nearly an hour and he just said go to a and e, do the spirometery, and that was it. Nothing else. No contact back. I had scans too on my chest, and all of them came back negative. Sorry for the essay, just desperate to get some relief here! Thanks

2 Replies

Best thing go back to your doctor. We forum members are, in general, not medically qualified. Unless the forum rules have changed, the rule is, by all means come on to compare similar symptoms but in this case and with the history of symptoms, IMHO I'd say ask for second opinion at your GP practice.


Welcome, Jacob!

Along with GrannyMo, I think you need to consult with a doctor. Since you feel your current GP isn't giving you the help you need, that unfortunately means you need to find a doctor whose diagnostic approach is something you do feel comfortable with. Changing doctors isn't always easy I know, but if this bothers you enough to write a post about it to people who don't know you, it is important enough to go through whatever hassles this means. A new doctor can make a big difference if you find the right one.

Even if we were medically qualified (and I certainly am not), we couldn't ""diagnosis"" over the internet. The lungs are very complicated creatures and stand at the intersection of multiple physical systems: the upper respiratory tract, the heart, the vascular system, the composition of the blood, the muscular-skeletal system, your neurons, even your kidneys, among other things. There are just too many things to consider, investigate, and if needed test.

The odd thing is my peak flow, when my chest goes tight [which means tighter than usual, not just normal] my peak flow has gone down to 700 ish, but it comes back up again to over 800, sometimes 900 if I try really hard [on my home eu meter] so I'm guessing that is asthma making my airways constrict, but why are they constricting?

Peak flow is tricky. The ""normal"" has such a large standard deviation that comparing a person to the ""norms"" is practically useless. The actual number depends on a variety of factors that are somewhat misleadingly called ""effort"" : the tone of your abs and other muscles that control breathing, how tired those muscles are, how well your neurons communicate with those muscles, how efficiently you use those muscles (skill: well trained singers and wind instrument players can often blow abnormally high PF), and even style of blowing. I can often force out a very high (for me) peak flow if I do a very short ( < 1 sec ) exhale, but if I try to exhale like I would for a pulmonary function test where < 1 sec would be invalid, my peak flow will often be a fraction of what I can do if I basically cough/spit out the air.

The long and short of it is that peak flow is only really valid as a measure of relative difficulty breathing for you personally, i.e. when peak flow is < 80% of your best, something is likely getting in the way of your breathing and should be attended to. The main thing to be aware of is to make sure you consistently use the same technique each time you blow into the peak flow meter so that blows at different times are comparable.

Peak flow is also a poor diagnostic tool. It isn't very sensitive to small airway obstruction or problems with the aveoli (the little air sacs that hold all the air your breath in). It is primarily sensitive to obstruction in larger airways and the upper respiratory tract. Many lung conditions, among them COPD, are diseases primarily of the small airways and/or aveoli. Peak flow also can't factor in the effects of hyperinflation and there is good evidence that symptom levels have a strong correlation with hyperinflation and restricted inspiratory capacity (the inability to take in deep breaths). Only a full pulmonary function test (PFT) with body plesthmography can detect hyperinflation and restricted inspiratory capacity. A PFT can only be done in a lab and requires a doctor's prescription - hence the importance again of going back to your GP or finding another one if you think the current GP is useless.

Best of luck and hoping you find answers soon. It is no fun to have breathing problems, whatever the cause.


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