British Lung Foundation

Asthma suddenly worse after 30 years of being well

Hello everyone and happy new year, I'm hoping to get some advice.

I had bad asthma in childhood but it's been well controlled with a preventative inhaler since my teens, with only occasional use of my blue ventolin puffer.

I'm 51 now and caught a bad cold at the start of December (despite a flu jab in October). The cold made my asthma worse and I've since had antibiotics and prednisolone. I felt a bit better for a few days then the asthma symptoms returned for a few days, then I felt a bit better for a couple of days again, then worse again - and this has been the pattern for a month. I've also had small intermittent chest pains, which go away on my "better" days.

The GP says my chest sounds clear and my peak flow isn't too bad but I feel as though breathing is hard work and today I don't feel well enough to run (I am a runner.)

In the days when I've felt a bit better I've gone for a very short run (15 minutes) but then my symptoms return a few hours later or the next day after running, but not during the run.

My doctor thinks the cold, damp weather is to blame, and that inflammation after a chest infection can take longer to settle down. I've been on a double dose of my preventer inhaler for a month, which usually works, but I still feel bad.

A year ago I was diagnosed with non TB mycobacterium infection of the lungs. The consultant thinks I've had it for 12 years and the strain I have is a slow-growing one (mycobacterium xenopi), which may explain why I've felt so well (until now).

I've been on a cocktail of drugs for the myco for 10 months and due for a treatment review in a couple of weeks. However, I don't believe this is the reason for my breathing problems as they started within days of me catching this cold.

I am itching to get back to exercising properly and feel so frustrated and mystified by this asthma problem after being well for almost all of my adult life.

I had a punctured lung a year ago as a complication of a needle lung biopsy (when the myco was diagnosed) and I could barely breathe for two weeks afterwards, then I recovered and was well again and had no recurrence till now.

If you've been kind enough to read this far, have you ever heard of this happening - the sudden worsening of asthma after so many years of being well? And secondly, should I stop trying to exercise altogether while I have these breathing problems? I don't feel well enough to do anything today but I'm hoping to do pilates if my lungs give me a break in the next few days and, ultimately, return to running.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

1 Reply

YES, and after many visits to the docs I was sent to see a specialist who insisted I had an Endoscopy, they discovered I had Barrett's osophagus and insisted I took Esomeprazole immediately; within ten days ALL my debilitating chest symptoms had disappeared! I had been breathing in acid fumes during the night without realising it. I have now been taking Lansoprazole 20mg daily for 3 years and am great. I am 84 and have suffered from Asthma since 1934


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