Heart racing when breathless?


I thought I'd run this past you all as people were so helpful when I posted last time. I have been suffering from breathlessness; it's particularly bad upon exertion. I've noticed that when I am struggling to breathe, my heart races. I wasn't sure if this is an anxiety response or if there is a physical reason behind it?

Background; I'm 27 and have Rheumatoid Arthritis. My rheumatologist referred me for a chest x-ray and lung function tests due to my symptoms. Unfortunately, the NHS cogs are moving very slowly and I seem to be getting worse. I've also developed a heart murmur. I've seen about 6 GPs over the last few weeks, each with a differing opinion. One diagnosed me with asthma and prescribed inhalers (ventolin and steroids). The next time I was seen, I was told that he was glad the inhalers are helping but he still believes my problem is an underling Rheumatoid related lung disease, not asthma! I'm considering asking to be referred privately as, fortunately, I have private health insurance.

Thank you in advance for reading this. :)

17 Replies

  • I too get very breathless but have not noticed my heart racing, but then again I am so busy puffing lol as for going private might be a good idea to talk to your gp about this gentle hugs :-)

  • Hi Starvey cat. I took get very breathless on exertion & my heart races but I'm 69 have COPD , heart failure. & Atrial fibrillation so it's understandable. However if you don't have a definitive diagnosis & your symptoms are getting worse I think it's worth chatting to your GP about a private consultation. You could also have a chat with the help line good luck. & do keep in touch.

  • I have managed to get a GP appointment for Monday and I will ask about a private referral. Thank you for the reply.

  • Hi crash doll sorry about muddling the names hope your appointment goes well. Nan

  • You are a very brave lady I'm waiting to have a heart monitor as my heart was racing and I'm so scared I get my self so worked up

  • Thank you, starvey. :)

  • Hi Crashdoll

    Your GP is referring to Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) which can be caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis. It isn't something to be taken lightly and it directly affects the delicate parts of your lung that transfer the oxygen into your blood stream.

    I was eventually diagnosed with an ILD 18 months ago now. There are over 100 causes of ILD's mine isn't the same cause as yours but my struggle to obtain a diagnosis is similar. It took 6 months to even get a diagnosis while all the time I was getting worse, I had to wait over 3 months for a specialist appointment and much longer to obtain the correct care.

    Breathlessness is not a natural state and often we brush it off as being unfit, anxious etc. When my breathing was at it's worse my heart was racing most of the time and, for me it was simply due to the amount of effort needed to distribute oxygenated blood around my body.

    With ILD's the breathlessness is most obvious when moving around and often you can seem quite normal when sitting for a short while. I always had the problem with my GP who would look at me, after sitting in the waiting room for 15 minutes, take my oxygen levels and say that they looked fine. The problem was that when I moved around my oxygen level would drop to the low 80's and when going up stairs into the low 70's. My GP was constantly telling me it was Asthma but I knew it wasn't and the inhalers did not help.

    You can help yourself by purchasing a finger pulse oximiter to check your oxygen saturation - de-saturation is never normal. What I would also do is take a private referral if it's available to you. You can't repair any damage that is done to your lungs and you could end up with a permanent disability. The sooner you are assessed the sooner you can receive the right treatment for whatever is causing your breathlessness.

    The only way to assess the situation is by a Lung Function Test (not the spirometry test that your GP does) along with a High Resolution CT Scan (HRCT). My chest x-ray was always clear and couldn't show the extent of the inflammation throughout my lungs.

    The whole point of paying for private health insurance is so that you can get the treatment you need when you need it.

    Hope you get some answers soon.


  • Thank you, Jackie. I am generally very informed on RA but I naiively assumed that, at my age, lung issues were never going to cross my radar. It was helpful to read your response.

    You're right, I pay Bupa an awful lot of money and for peace of mind, I think a private consultation will be worth it.

  • Accygirl is right. You must see a consultant with super specialist understanding of these rare diseases that affect rheumatoid arthritis. Obliterative bronchiolitis can be caused by RA. As for going private…. Tricky… I had done that with limited success. And my gut instinct is that the very best of the consultants are too good and too busy to do private work. The consultants I have seen and have liked and respected are totally committed to their NHS patients and have no time for private patients. But my experience is — as I say — limited. I do wonder why some doctors to private work. I am biased as my problems were caused by an NHS operation done in the private sector and it was not done to the same standards as it would have been in the local NHS hospital. I believe that happened because they chose a cheap and ineffective drug regime to prevent DVT to thus increase their profit margin on the lucrative contracts they get from the NHS. Can't prove it…

    Push for it. GPs' and consultants' secretaries are often brilliant at getting appointments changed. Make friends with them. And they can be emailed to speed things up even more.

    More power to your elbow, mon brave

    Love and hugs

    K xxxx

  • Thank you for your reply.

    I have mixed feelings with regards to private healthcare. Overall, I feel the NHS does it's job well and I feel very lucky that I've received good care from the vast majority medical professionals. However, it's the 'system' that gets me down; the long waits, the lack of communication between my surgery and the hospital, losing blood test results and making prescription errors etc.

    I managed to get a GP appt on Monday and I'll see what happens then.

  • Good luck. Yes, the system is grim. I have been waiting for over five and half years, and now another month to wait for an appointment which I can't think is going to reveal anything. I have had private appointments which have worked: I knew I needed to be back on warfarin and I had a private appt with a cardiologist who said, after I had set out all my symptoms and test results; "Why aren't you on warfarin?" and he wrote to my GP and it was set up. Another one was just awful. Really, really bad. One of the problems is how to choose the consultant.

    Goo dluck for Monday.

    K xx

  • Hi Crashdoll. From experience, I went to see my Respiratory Consultant privately when my chest started to deteriorate. My NHS Rheumy referred me to the Nuffield by mistake but the benefit was that it was only a week before I was seen!

    I had a long appointment with plenty of time to discuss my problems. However, ALL my notes, blood tests, X-rays, scans etc were at my usual hospital so he had no background information on me whatsoever other than a crumpled fax. He promised to look up some of my results when he returned to the hospital late that day but in fact forgot all of the follow up the moment I left his room. For me, it was a great disappointment (expensive too) so I have swapped back to the NHS and remain there for continuity.

    Going privately enables you to retain some control over your health but do make sure that your Dr has access to all the information he/she needs beforehand.

    It is unnerving when these CTD's suddenly attack from a different angle, I hope you'll feel better when you know what you're dealing with. Best of luck. Clare x

  • Thank you. Your point about continuity and access to information was why I wanted to stay within the NHS. However, the amount of time and my deterioration has led me to want to take action. My ill health has meant I was signed off work and this is really getting me down. I just want to be healthy and get back to my job!

    Thanks again for your reply. :)

  • With a bit of extra communication, it is possible for your chosen Bupa consultant to have your notes in time for your appt. I cant recommend this highly enough. You can also run NHS and bupa appts alongside each other which is what I am doing with ENT st the moment. You should use any resource available to you. I don't have ILD, I'm not sure exactly what I do have but the inhalers help. Frequent lung function tests monitor things too. Keep us posted x

  • Hi crashdoll, I too have lung disease due to RA. To cut a long story short, never had brill lungs had big op 1989 ok for many years, developed RA, anti TNF gave me TB, 2 1/2 yrs treatment or there abouts, developed aspergilloma , (fungal balls) eventually in both lungs, hospitalised many times with infections requiring intravenous Ab's. Very ill last oct developed pseudomonas. on and off Ab's sometimes intravenous at home. For many years I have seen a chest specialist for check ups every 3 months or so. ........... So what I am trying to say that as well as seeing your Rheumy regularly, you need to get to see a chest specialist as well, you can ask your GP to refer you.

    Hope you feel better soon.

    jan x

  • It's the heart trying to pump oxygen to the heart whichis not there. Your body demands more the more it is working.A bit of breathless is not to bad but a lot means a visit to your G P.

  • This afternoon I felt breathless and remembered your post, so felt my pulse it was racing so that explained why I felt rough, but a lay down with a cuppa and I was soon OK take care ;-)

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