British Lung Foundation
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Why can no doctor give me a straight answer and it seems like I am slowly feeling less physical. Depression?

I am currently a 22 year old white male turning 23 this upcoming Tuesday which I am excited for. My height is 70 inches and my weight is 164lbs currently. I am originally born on Long Island New York and lived there for 20 years of my life and just recently moved to Georgia 2 years ago. I landed a job as a firefighter a little over a year ago and at the time I thought this was the best thing to ever happen to me until I started having breathing problems. Throughout my career so far I have been into the 2 burning buildings and yesterday had a huge brush fire that required 4 hours to put out and throughout the whole time of putting it out me and the crew were breathing in all the smoke from the tires being burned and the trees being burned. I'm surrounded by chemicals daily and dust daily at the fire station and it is disturbing cause I feel like I am damaging my lungs even more just using these cleaning products such as 409, Pine sole and windex. I also sometimes inhale the fumes from the fire engine exhaust.

My symptoms

1. Trouble taking a deep breath throughout the day until I fall asleep

2. Neck feels tight and over used from trying to inhale deeply constantly

3. Cough but it is very very random. I maybe cough 4-6 times max every 2 days so I wouldn't consider this an issue.

4. Randomly having whistling sounds when inhaling through nose but this seemed to subside.

My pulmonary function test results

FEV1: 4.33 Liters

FEV1: 98%

FVC: 4.94 Liters

FEV1/FVC: 88%

TLC: 6.18 Liter

TLC: 88%

RV: 0.92 Liters

RV/TLC: 15%

DLCO/VA: 6.25

I understand that my pulmonary function test seems normal and both doctors that I visited said that it was normal but the only thing that concerns me is that when I go to the CDC and use there calculations and type in my results to view the standards for my age it shows that I am slightly below and this worries me cause I am only 22 and Im worried long term my lung function can really bad or that the doctors missed something or they are possibly just overlooking the results and assuming that I'm too young to have COPD.

Questions about me

1. Never smoked in my life but have been around second hand smoke as a child

2. Never did any drugs

3. No family history of lung diseases

4. We do have a family history of heart disease

5. My grandpa suffers from sleep apnea but thats it in my family

Test ran on me

1. Pulmonary function test

2. Blood test which was normal

3. EKG was normal

4. Chest X-Ray which was normal according to doctors

Supplements I Take

1. Fish Oil

2. Multivitamin

See I am trying to figure out why I am struggling to take a deep breath and why I am constantly having a feeling of needing to take a deep breath. Doctors said it could very well be anxiety but didn't diagnose that and this is why I am at a lost cause I feel like I am not getting any answers. I did just recently about a week ago send in some blood samples for a test called the ALPHA 1 test which I chose to do on my own and was not doctor recommended. Currently waiting for my results and was just wondering if anyone else could possibly give me an answer or anyone else in the same situation as I am? Thanks and i hope everyone is doing well.

14 Replies

Hi an FEV1 (lung function) of 98% is absolutely normal for someone without lung problems. Are you worried because you think it should be 100%? 90%-100% is great and just considered a variation of the norm. Copd is normally diagnosed at a much later age than 22 and more often after decades of smoking. I am not saying that there has never been anyone of your age diagnosed, but it is very rare especially when you have had the diagnostic tests and they are normal.

If you fall below 90% FEV1 then you might have a problem. You have had answers from doctors - you don't have a lung problem. Why do you think, despite all the tests and doctors reassurances, that you do?

From your post I would say you could be suffering from some form of anxiety and I think you should go back to the doctors for a diagnosis and get treatment. Your symtoms are a classic sign of anxiety which can affect your breathing.

There are a couple of good anxiety sites on here so I recommend you have a look at them.

Did I see you post the same questions twice on another site? Your story sounds familiar.

Finally if you are worried about possible damage to your lungs caused by your job, then it is probably best if you consider a change of career to a cleaner environment.



Firstly I want to say thank you for replying to my post and taking the time out of your life to respond and give good information. It is very much appreciated sir but I would like to respond back to you with some questions if you don't mind. When you ask me about if I believe my FEV1 should be 100%, well not exactly. My FEV1 was kinda a concern due to the reason of seeing a lot of other people with an FEV1 percent of 115%-130% and I was unable to ever understand this. The only conclusion I was able to come up with is maybe the possibility of these patients been taller and having larger lungs but I'm not sure if that would even be true.

Sir the only reason why I'm not reassured by the doctors is due to the reason of them not explaining anything to me other then basically look at me as a young adult who seems to be wasting there time. Now call me arrogant but it seems like doctors today don't take a lot of there patients seriously. Out of the three times I went months ago they didn't diagnose anything and literally said "I do not know." If you ask me thats not reassuring at all.

There are some days that I think to myself that this possibly could be anxiety and since I keep worrying about it that it is getting worse. Just one day in the afternoon it started to happen and and I shrugged it off and said it will go away in the morning which is never did and since then I could never stop thinking about it.

I promise you I never posted this before. I did post this question once but got deleted right away and I couldn't understand why.

I will search on the anxiety forms and see if anyone else is suffering from the same thing I am. I appreciate you replying. I am planning on changing my career and this will make no sense to you but I wanna either join the air force or coast guard.


It makes perfect sense as these careers shouldn't involve a lot of smoke or fires!

I have never heard of anyone having a lung function of 115% let alone 130%. Surely that's not possible as 100% by it's very wording is the maximum? The normal lung function is between 90-100%. Anyone less than this could be suffering from a respiratory disease. You are not.

Doctors often don't explain things very well which is one reason sites like this exist. They have done the tests and said there is no problem, even if you don't understand why there isn't can't you take their word for it? Do you understand it better now that we have explained it?

Google anxiety as well (especially health anxiety which is quite common) and you might understand a lot more as this can cause the problems you are experiencing.


My lung function was 124% when I was 32 years old - It is possible and the Dr in those years said it is because my lungs are larger than expected for my size. Isn't it sad that I'm now border line stage 1 /2 due to smoking 27 years later. Searchingforanswer your stats is normal and you don't have it. Maybe you get stressed? That can cause that tight chested feeling as well


Do they really Hanne? I didn't know that! How come? x


Ah it makes sense now, thanks. x


And for other tests Hanne - my fvc, forced lung capacity, is something like 120% which is why my fev1/fvc ratio is so small.


Hi Searchingforanswer. I am sorry you are feeling so bothered about this but the only person that can diagnose you is your doctor. Please go back and discuss your feelings and worries with him/her.


I will schedule an appointment as soon as time allows. I thank you for replying back to my post.


You need to go back and speak with your doctor and perhaps a scan could be something to look into


Im thinking you should have respirators to do your job - the smoke you inhale could well be a problem in the longer term, it is an occupational hazard for fire fighters. I would have thought the admittedly unusual level of smoke and pollutants in 9/11 and subsequent damage to fire fighters' lungs in NYC would have raised consciousness for the need for respirators but I really don't know anything about this.

Smoke can trigger asthma and if you had asthma this would show up in your fev1 (it would be reversible after taking a bronchodilator and a repeat test, unlike copd), but your fev1 is normal. Your doctor must have considered this possibility anyway so has presumably ruled it out since he says your lungs are normal.

Please do what is suggested by everyone above and see your doctor to discuss your concerns and the possibility you are badly troubled by anxiety or other possible diagnoses. Im afraid no-one here can give you the answers you are looking for.


Sorry, my mistake, just realised you are in Georgia now.


Hi there maybe you should look at chemical allergy , your work has alot of strong smells .


I believe to get what is "normal" for FEV1 they test a large group of healthy people and then take the average of all of those people. So if the average for someone of your age and height is 4.40 then there was likely some people you were 4.5 or 4.3 so that is why there is a range that is considered normal. Just like some people of the same height may have longer arms or bigger hands so also people of the same size can have different size lungs which will result in a different FEV1 or FVC from the average, and can lead to results above or below 100%.

As others have also stated anxiety can lead to all kinds of issues and symptoms, but only a doctor can or should make that diagnosis. Sometimes anxiety can be controlled by your own thought process, by not worrying for example, but in other cases it is a real medical condition that needs treatment.

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