Thyroid UK
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painfull to breathe

I have recently started a new job, looking after elderly in own homes, its very stressfull, never got enough time for everybody, and upsetting. I was okay for the 1st month but last week I started getting a lot of pain when I breathed in, I am very run down due to the lack of time to eat and drink properly, I do smoke, but havnt felt like it luckily, since this painfull breathing started. Im sure I read on a previous post somewhere breathing difficulties can be sign that your thyroid isn't working properly, I take 125mg of levothyroxine a day, and my doctor always says my blood tests are in range. I went to doctor today, he said my lungs sound clear, and that I probably have pluritis, pain to chest wall, he,s signed me off for a week to rest, no mention of thyroid at all, but have been feeling very weepy and depressed, just wondered if anyone thinks it could be thyroid related. Any information helpful, because I don't remember straining my chest lifting or anything, I find it hard to believe it should just happen overnight.

17 Replies

Strangely- I had something similar, 2 days ago.

I never get pain on breathing deep but after 6mile walk number three [in a week] on Sunday there it was.[Quite sharp-in lower back rib cage] Not over doing it- trying to get back fit.

It must have been muscular- from the awkward stiles, but I didn't feel it at the time.

It's eased since and I have wondered if my current Levo was behind it.

Lots of other persistent aches have come and slowly faded, similarly, on a low dose too!

Levo seems to be known for this sort of thing - lets hope it eases soon, as my neck pain lasted weeks.

Otherwise- could be something else.


Difficult breathing, breathlessness, air hunger are descriptions I have used with hyper and hypothyroidism but I have only had pain like you describe on inhalation when I had pluerisy. Pleurisy is another name for pluritis. It can be caused amongst other things by a bacterial infection and can happen rapidly or overnight as you say.

When the thyroid levels are imbalanced you can be more prone to infections not just in the chest so perhaps that is the link.

You describe being weepy and depressed - symptoms of low thyroid, so perhaps this is making you vulnerable to infection?

Have you had your thyroid levels checked recently? Your doctor saying they are 'in range' is not the answer. In range for who? What are your optimal levels?

I know it's difficult but I think you need to get copies of your very recent tests or have new tests done and then post them here.


thank you, it is only when I breathe in, and as ive been so busy with this job its been at least 6months since I had my levels checked, well I think so, time flies so quick, and I know I havnt been eating properly, so that wont help my risk of infection. I will ring surgery again in morning and find out, and arrange a blood test, worth looking into. Thank you

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You're welcome good luck and let us know how you get on


vicki, there is a condition called costochondritis which affects those very sensitive muscles and nerves that surround the rib case. Even if you didn't lift heavy things, the stress causes them to tighten up and brace which is just as bad. Do anti inflammatories take it away?


unfortunately im allergic to ibuprofen so cant take that, doctor just said take paracetemol, its helped a bit, but still feel that im not breathing in enough oxygen, as when I do try and take a deeper breathe the pain is too severe, he just said rest. It helps that ive not got too work for a week, but don't think the heat is helping at the moment.


It may help to disassociate the air hunger {I know how it feels] from the feeling 'it's going to hurt any moment'. Breathe shallow for a while.

Both can raise stress reactions and that can actually cause muscle spasm if severe enough.

A good soak in the bath salts, too- showers are no good for this sort of thing :)

Never heard of Costochondritis though- maybe what I had a bit of!


Hi. I am not sure about pain with this condition, as I have never had pain when breathing in. you should consult your doctor. is it a sharp pain in your back where your lungs are.?


No it hurts in the front, a really sharp pain, and feels like I cant get enough oxygen when I breathe in, been to doctors and had to blow into a device that measures what your blowing out, was well below what it should of been, but that's why he said ive got pleuritis ie, sore chest. and recommended rest, and paracetemol, as im allergic to iboprofin.



This is what you have:

Pleurisy (also known as pleuritis) is an inflammation of the pleura, the lining surrounding the lungs.[1] There are many possible causes of pleurisy but viral infections spreading from the lungs to pleural cavity are the most common.[2] The inflamed pleural layers rub against each other every time the lungs expand to breathe in air.[3] This can cause sharp pain when breathing, also called pleuritic chest pain.[4][5] (Taken from Wikipedia).

I had this over 4 and half years ago and it is very serious. If you start coughing up blood go straight to A&E. I think it is also linked to thyroid because when I was diagnosed with pleurisy I was told I had a chest infection, throat infection and laryngitis. It turns out that they were all symptoms of thyroid cancer that didn't get diagnosed until February of this year when I insisted on having tests done because of pain in the same area again and having difficulty breathing. My GPS fobbed me off saying it was diabetic nerve pain but I knew this was not the case as it felt like a lump. The only person that listened was the radiographer at the hospital that did my ultrasound scan. He was livid because I'd had chest rays and they were fine and he thought I was wasting his time. He eplained it all to him and he requested an urgent CT scan that found a calcified nodule on the right lobe of my thyroid. This was removed in February and found to be follicular variant papillary thyroid cancer. It was probably a goitre that had calcified and then developed into cancer, but goitres are triggered by the thyroid and can occur in the lungs too! Basically, what I'm trying to say is, that my pleurisy was probably a goitre that could have been acted upon and perhaps the cancer wouldn't have manifested so long insider me.

Just take it easy and rest but if you don't improve go back to your doctor. I had the pleurisy was weeks but because I was working went back to work and probably made myself more ill in the process. I only took 2 weeks off work but I found out later that in olden days you would be hospitalised with it because it can be so bad.

I hope you start to feel better soon and best wishes :)


I was worried because ive been a smoker for years, and automatically thought id got lung cancer, he said my lungs sounded clear, but id probably knocked or jarred my chest wall, which is causing the pain, I will definitely go back if no improvement in couple of days, and I certainly don't want to smoke, and I wont go back to my demanding job till im 100%, but thanks for the advice, I don't really have any faith in the doctors anyway.


You may have inflammation of the ribs, if this dosent go, then I would go back to the docs. X


Hiya, I don't have any faith in them either because they fob you off because they can't be bothered. My sister died because he GP kept telling her that the stomach pains she were getting were muscle strains. After 2 weeks of agony she collapsed and was rushed to hospital A&E and they couldn't find a cause. The admitted her to a ward and her heart gave out. They didn't have a crash trolley and by the time they got one it was too late. The post mortam showed she had died from peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendi. She asked the GP could it be her appendi and they poo pooed the idea.

In your case just keep badgering them until you get somewhere.

Good luck.


I was only speaking to my husbands secretary yesterday. She's had thyroid cancer and has had her thyroid removed. She was telling me that for a long time she's had difficulty in breathing and it's painful when she breathes in.

She's been told her TSH is slightly under range as her doctor wants to keep it that way to stop the cancer coming back.

Is there any information I can pass on to her?


Well, now I'm terrified.

Five months ago I developed a very small cold which caused laryngitis, but instead of going away in a couple of days it just hung on and on and on. I won't go into all the crazy details, but suffice it to say 2 weeks ago I ended up in the ER with pleurisy. I was really scared because my BP and heart rate have been very high. Only 5 days previous I went to the ER for a spider bite that quickly developed into cellulitis. When I got there my BP was 188/159. Luckily it went down enough (my new absolute low these days is 140/90, but I've been up to hypertensive crisis levels at least 3 times that I know of) they let me go home with a shot of antibiotics and scripts for 2 more which I finished. Two of the three are used to treat MRSA. I didn't tell them about the pain breathing, which I knew was pleurisy, that visit, because my 4 kids had just gotten back from a 5 week trip in Africa and we were having a little get together at my house. I knew if I told them it hurt to breathe, like hurt terribly, things would escalate. At the time I had an appointment scheduled with my regular doc, but because he changed practices it was 3 weeks out, because I had to be established as a new patient. I had never really seen him very often anyway, like not for at least a year and a half. I figured I could tough it out till the appointment.

Well the pain finally got so bad I snuck to the ER late one night when the kids were at their dad's. As I suspected there were suddenly 5 people in the room. They did an EKG, drew some blood, chest x-ray, and CT scan of my lungs. They told me everything came back "normal," except for a couple nodules on my lungs that would just need to be scanned again in a year. By this time the laryngitis was no longer total. Just hoarseness and it has continued to very slowly improve. They did tell me to keep my appointment with my doctor and make sure he looked at all the results.

Well the results were not normal. High white cell count. Fluid around the heart. The nodules I already mentioned and he said one of the blood tests pointed to thyroid. Additionally he felt my thyroid and told me straight up it was enlarged and that he couldn't even feel my larynx through it. That certainly explained why the ENT I had been seeing for 4 months could never really find much irritation on the vocal chords, but I find it absolutely unconscionable he did not check my thyroid since it was apparently enlarged enough my GP checked it within minutes of reading my test results from the ER. He even threw out there the idea of just taking my thyroid out which I thought was odd considering this was my first appointment with him. He ordered extensive blood tests and an US of my thyroid, but he seemed oddly confident. He didn't come right out and say anything, but I got the feeling dots were connecting and he did say all of my symptoms could definitely be stemming from a thyroid problem as the root cause.

So they took 5 vials of blood yesterday and I had an ultrasound of my thyroid today. Of course the tech couldn't comment, but he spent about 2/3rds of the time on the right side and there was a lot of measuring and clicking.

So yeah, now I'm terrified. Thyroid nodules, plus lung nodules, plus pleurisy, plus high white count, plus laryngitis, and believe me it doesn't stop there. I'm trying to stay calm. I just don't want to hear "lung cancer." I think I can deal with anything else. My doc gets the results of the US on Tuesday (today is Friday), but I don't have my next appointment for 2 more weeks. I guess if they call me to schedule a biopsy I'll know cancer is a possibility and just try to push it to the back of my mind while the wheels of medicine do their thing.

And just got off the phone with my mom. My aunt had thyroid cancer and had it removed. She's doing well.


Hello there,

This was a surprise messsage after such a long time but I guess you need someone to talk to who is not family and willing to listen or help.

From what you've told me it could be thyroid cancer in the nodule. Thyroid problems can cause nodules in the lungs and pleurisy is one of the first signs of cancer. Plus, your high white blood cell count and other illnesses point to something more scary. But, bear in mind, it is possible that you've not got cancer but the nodule is causing you to have an underactive thyroid or something similar and your white blood cell count could be linked to your recent illnesses and your body is trying to fight off these illnesses.

If it is thyroid cancer your prognosis could be very good dependent on your age, type of thyroid cancer (there's 4 and their variants), size of tumour and staging. The diagnostic procedure is as follows:

* Ultrasound scan of thyroid

* Fine needle aspiration (FNA) where a needle is inserted into the thyroid and cells are removed to test and examine under microscope

* Removal of nodule and/or full or part thyroid removal and then,

* Biopsy of removed nodule and/or thyroid to ascertain whether it is cancerous, the type of cancer, size, stage etc., and stage of treatment.

If the cancer is not contained within the nodule and thyroid gland then more tissue may be removed. Normally, the biopsy is done whilst you are in theatre so that if they need to remove all the thyroid gland they can do so so that you don't need further surgery.

Approximately, five or six weeks after surgery you may need Radioactive Iodine streatment to kill any cancer cells that may be present elsewhere in the body. You need to follow a low iodine diet before this treatment so that the cancer killed, the cancer uses iodine in the diet to grow.

I hope this helps but if you need more help please don't hesitate to Pm me.

Good luck,

TT xx

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Hi I have had breathing difficulties and saw GP yesterday as Dr S says need more T4 But low and behold being sent for an ECG. If they want to waste money I will let them eliminate everything and then get the dose I require.


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