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British Lung Foundation
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Why am I gasping?

I have recently developed a symptom alongside many others which closely resemble Fibromyalgia, but that's not been diagnosed as the GPs seem to have written me off.

I have a diagnosis of Asthma from my childhood, but it has not been an issue really for a very long time and I seem to have grown out of having attacks. I am supposed to take Fluticasone/Salmeterol (Seretide) preventer and Salbutamol (Ventolin), but I have such severe and bizarre symptoms, it makes all of these, including the breathing problem, worse. The symptoms I have range from level 10 muscle and joint pain, severe fatigue (enough to keep me in bed 6 days out of 7 now), an extreme feeling of vibration inside my body that nobody else can see or detect, burning sensations all over my body etc, but the breathing one is new (came on around March time). I have the constant sensation of movement inside my body, and if I use anything with a steroid in, it sends it up to unbearable levels.

When the episodes come on, there is no obvious trigger, I can be happy and enjoying myself, then all of a sudden my throat and chest feel as if they are constricting, my body starts involuntarily gasping, every muscle in my neck, back and shoulders is involved and since it began, I'm getting awful pain in all those muscles.

When I breath in and out it feels as if air is being forced through my larynx, breathing in sounds sort of like 'RAHH RAHH THOOAYYYYYY' and out like 'SHHASSPPPPP & SHEKT' etc. It's so bad I get no sleep obviously, but it also effects my husband too. I have no control over it. About 9 out of 10 breaths out end in a long, painful dry wheezing cough too.

I have had a chest xray and nothing showed up. I have been to A&E four times and been treated like a time waster because again, nothing shows up on tests.

One thing that does stop it for a few hours is the reliever Ventolin inhaler, but my GP surgery will only give me one every two months and told me I should only need to use it once or twice a YEAR. They do not understand why I am unable to use the preventer.

I have also got severe heart palpitations and am getting a 24 hour heart monitor next month. I doubt it will pick anything up.

I keep having to get emergency supplies of the ventolin, as although I've been told it's not asthma, it stops it and gives my throbbing muscles a break.

It feels as if air is not going into my lungs fully, like they're full of water or something.

When the episodes come on, my arms and legs tingle, my lips lose colour and my face flushes, this must be falling Oxygen levels, but it has never showed up on any test.

Is it really possible for something like this not to show up on any tests?.

5 Replies

From your description it sounds as if you could be having anxiety attacks. I would suggest you see your GP and ask if it could be a possible cause.

From what I have read, it is possible to get subconscious anxiety attacks that consciously you don't realise about, which makes it worse because as far as you know the attacks suddenly happen out of the blue for no apparent reason. Some anxiety attacks are so severe that you can go into bodily distress, whose symptoms sound so very similar to those you describe.

Go see your GP and ask, none of us here can give you an actual diagnosis, only possible suggestions.


Hello and welcome to the group.

Your GP cannot make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, you would need to be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. Also, your symptoms resemble those of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Maybe you need to speak to your doctor again about your concerns and ask for a referral.....if he's not prepared to do this, could you change to a different practice?

Good luck. I hope that you get some answers soon. XXX


Has any one suggested that you try a different preventer....there are many different ones available, another may suit you better. Or Monteleukast tablets.

Do you think you might be hyperventilating when you get these attacks.....when your carbon dioxide levels and oxygen levels get out of synch.

Have you tried pursed lip breathing ......breathe in gently through your nose and then out gently for a longer time through your mouth with pursed lips....repeat a few times.

At other times breathe gently through your nose to warm and filter the air, using belly breathing, very gently ..not tight top of the chest and shoulders breathing. Very easy to write but difficult to do when you are struggling to breathe I know.

I find a small hand held battery fan helps too, just direct the air flow to your face.

I would go back to your GP and ask for a referral too.


Hello Chezombie

Welcome to this forum

1. You need a Rheumatologist to diagnose Fibromyalgia. What you are describing doesn't really fit the bill, but everyone is different so I wouldn't write it off.

2. If you were asthmatic as a child, I'm surprised your GP. is being so dismissive.

3. This could perhaps be anxiety or severe panic attack. Because of the asthma, and the long term issues that could arise from that, it needs more thorough investigation. If you can't persuade your Doctor to refer you to Rheumatology, then maybe ask to see another GP at the practice? Or change surgeries?

Whatever you decide, good luck.

Cc xx


Thanks everyone, I've not ruled Anxiety out, but I am also coughing a lot and I've had some degree of anxiety all my life and never felt anything close to any of this from it. I automatically do the pursed lip thing, it's often part of the 'attacks', my body seems to shut down and concentrate solely on forcing air into my lungs.

During and after these 'episodes' I start feeling very drowsy and start falling asleep. I remember feeling like this when I had asthma attacks as a child.

I know GPs can't diagnose me with anything, but they also won't refer me on. That's the stumbling block. I'm basically just being told to go away.

I am very, very reluctant to try medications, as I even have severe internal, physical reactions to steroid inhalers and eczema cream. To put it in a nutshell, it feels as if your body is doing 0-100mph in a millisecond over and over again. Everything inside, including my lungs, vibrates at an insanely high speed 24.7. This sensation never stops, and is pushing me to the very outer limits of what any human can endure. You should see their faces when you try to explain that!. A 'flare up' of whatever is wrong with me involves every symptom I have getting worse, including the breathing issue. I have no way to tell what my oxygen levels are during an episode, so if I start to feel very dizzy and my limbs start going numb etc, I have no choice but to go to the hospital.

I have also noticed that my body cannot even handle it's own natural chemistry. Most of the hospital trips have been close to my menstrual periods too, which are just another thing I react very badly to. The breathing problem is just part of it, and gets worse alongside everything else.

If the GPs want to write me off, I will ask for a letter to show the hospital explaining why I keep having to go there. I had to go once as all the day's appointments went in the space of 10 minutes. I managed to get someone from the hospital to force them to make me an appointment.

Another factor making me question if it's anxiety is that it happens as soon as I wake up, that's if I get to sleep in the first place. It could be some form of anxiety yes, I am sure anyone who had to deal with this immense, constant sensation of movement inside their body would certainly develop more than just anxiety. I am 31, but if I had to guess what age I felt, I'd say more like 91, and I know a good few 90+ year olds with a far better quality of life (and lung capacity) than me.


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