Pernicious Anaemia Society

Breathing trouble


Does anyone else get trouble breathing - especially around winter? I have asthma anyway, and I've pulled a chest muscle so obviously deep breaths are difficult currently. But I also find that my breathing is getting worse and I struggle to get enough oxygen. Is it simply a case that people with PA just don't have enough oxygen in their body in the first place so anything else just adds to it? Thanks

6 Replies

Hi Moosey. There are a number of things that can cause shortness in breath, one of which might be low ferritin levels or the anaemia sometimes associated with pernicious anaemia.

However, once treated for PA and any associated vitamin or iron deficiencies, then symptoms - including shortness of breath - are usually brought under control. So it's probably not wise to simply assume that any breathing problems are due to PA, especially as you have a history of asthma and most certainly if you get suddenly worse.

Unfortunately it's not possible to say exactly what the cause of your breathing problems is (especially in a forum situation) - you really need to have a proper medical assessment to determine exactly what is going on.

If your respiratory distress is worse than usual or it gets steadily worse and is not relieved by your usual inhaler regime, you should seek medical assistance, either at an NHS walk in centre or via a visit to A & E.

Certainly if you get pale and clammy, start to feel faint, or get a blue tinge under your nailbeds or in your lips, fingers or peripheries etc,. then you should go straight to A & E.

If you are at all worried or frightened, then it's always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical assistance immediately: at best this will reassure you and in the event that further treatment is found to be necessary, you'll be in exactly the right place to get it.

If you decide not to follow the emergency treatment route, it would be a very good idea to see your GP at the earliest opportunity to discuss these issues with him/her.

Very best of luck and please post again if you need any further advice or support.


It is possible that low iron can be the cause of breathlessness. Iron adheres to the red blood cells and in turn oxygen adheres to the iron for transportation around the body - simplistiically put 😊

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Quick way of finding out is it really is a problem with not enough oxygen - get yourself a cheap pulse-oximeter - less than £15 from Amazon -

That measures blood oxygen and they seem pretty reliable (I've worn three at the same time - and they agreed).


As others have said - lots of things that could be causing the breathlessness and if you are finding yourself struggling then the best thing to do is get it checked out by a medic - particularly as you mention that you have been having problems with circulation in your hands - quite possible that there is more than just PA going on.

I find that sometimes if I get a cold I end up really struggling for breath - I had several bouts of chest and upper respiratory tract infections in the couple of years before I was diagnosed as being B12 deficient - I don't have asthma but my GP did give me an inhaler and a nebuliser at one point to help calm the breathing and that has worked quite well for me when I am struggling - just helps to open the air packages and calm things down for me.

In terms of PA there are a number of ways that it can lead to breathlessness - which includes the effect of macrocytic anaemia making the blood less efficient at carrying oxygen to where it is needed, but also includes some of the neurological problems B12 causes and the way the brain is interpreting signals from the autonomic system that monitors those things, like breathing, that you do without really thinking about it. I know I find these days - even though I'd generally regard myself as better - that I start to feel breathless when my blood oxygen is only just on the low side rather than at the levels that indicate that I'm ill.

However, back to the advice of others - best to follow up on what is happening if you can.

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I have asthma too, with my practice nurse's blessing I up my dose of salbutamol in the winter months. The cold air affects the airways, although you should get your peak flow tested to know exactly how to manage your asthma correctly, and if it is your asthma that is affecting your breathing. For the last couple of years I have suffered with incessant yawning (which doesn't always mean your tired) it also is an intake of air, not unlike a deep sigh or deep breath. This could be related to PA, but it's best to get checked out by a medical person really.

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Thanks all. I ended up being hospitalised on Monday and it turned out to be asthma related rather than PA related.


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