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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Breathing

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Irregular Breathing
Question: I do not breath regularly. It is as if I forget to breath and then I remember and have to take a few deep breaths. My doctor has not found anything wrong. Can you suggest something?

Answer: It might be anxiety.

Question: My son is six years old and breathes very loudly and only through his mouth. If he is watching TV or concentrating deeply his breathing is even louder. When I asked his Doctor about it, she said it's nothing to worry about. However, I am concerned about it and need some advice or feedback on what is causing this. Could it be nasal problems, throat problems, or lung difficulties?

Answer: It could be, especially nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum or polyps. Check with an Ear/Nose/Throat specialist. He or she will need to look up your sons nostrils with a speculum.

Question: I have a certain breathing problem that no one has been able to explain to me. Since I was young, I was under the impression that the reason I was always short of breath was due to my being overweight and asthma. Although I have lost most of that weight, I'm still unable to do physical activities (sports, swim, or running). Also, my back always feels tight. As a result, most of the time I have to stand still. Even while talking I have to take a break after a minute or two. Even my latest doctor is coming to the conclusion that it is not asthma, but instead is something else. What could it be?

Answer: There are several potential causes for dyspnes. Actually, the sensation of shortness of breath has little to do with how much oxygen is received, but more to do with certain receptors in the lung and lung surface. An evaluation will require pulmonary function tests with diffusing capacity, an echo cardiogram, and a blood gas for starters. Then a stress echo with oximety is usually the next step. Consult with your physician because further work is needed.

Breathing Difficulty
Question: For the last little while, my breathing has been weird. I do get plenty of air, but it's strange. I remember awhile back, I started to yawn. My lungs feel very refreshed and good when I yawn. The problem is that I yawn too much. I will be talking or singing, or whatever else, and I'll have to stop to yawn alot. Alot of the time, it does not come out as a yawn, but is just a very deep breath. It seems like my lungs are always wanting alot of air with yawns and deep breaths. I feel fine when I breath regular, and sometimes I can fight the urge to do it, but it still seems to come through. Every now and then, I will have my mind on something else and it won't be too bad. I was at a big concert the other day, and I only remember yawning a few times. It is worse when I think about my breathing. It seems like it has become a habit, or whatever you want to call it, and I am getting very tired of it. I would like to know why it happens, and what I can do about it.

Answer:Usually when a patient is conscious of their breathing-but, not short of breath it reflects some element of anxiety or depression. Yawning is usually an attempt by ones body to decrease the C02 count and make one less sleepy. So, being overly tired will cause uncontrolled yawning.

Breathing Difficulty
Question: I am a 56 year old female. My lung was removed 5 months ago for nslc T3N2Mo. Concurrent radiation and chemotherapy was completed in September. Of the several complaints I have, breathing is the main one. My oncologistsays the lung looks ok, the oxygen object that they put on my finger always checks ok, and my blood counts are ok. However, all checks are made when I am at rest, and breathing is ok at rest. when I have any exertion at all(walking) it feels like a belt has tightened around my chest, it feels like my heart is going to pop, and I have mild headache. the doctor has told me it is probably some emphysema in the right lung due to 23 years of smoking. What tests should I request from my doctor so that my medical record will reflect specifics.

Answer: Strangely enough, the feeling of shortness of breath(dyspnes) does not necessarily mean that your body is getting insufficient oxygen. The receptors in your lung that are responsible for feeling "short of breath" have little to do with the amount of oxygen in your system. There are specific tests that you need to know. In particular, if the pulmonary function tests show restrictive or obstructive lung disease. Restrictive disease in difficulty getting air is due to fibrosis, thickened lung tissue etc. Obstructive lung disease is diffifulty getting air out- usually seen in asthma and emphysema. Restrictive lung disease is difficult to treat or improve. Obstuctive lung disease has several possibilities that will improve your function. Also, it is important to know the diffusing capacity. This is a measurement of the difficulty that carbon dioxide has getting across the membrane. If your physician is not giving sufficient attention, I would request a specialist- an internist or a pulmonary specialist. They could fairly easily determine any limitations you might have. It sounds fairly significant if you qualify for disability.
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