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Asthma

New asthma symptom

08/17/2009

Question:

I`ve had asthma pretty much all my life (I was diagnosed at 6 months of age, and I`m 22 now). When I was a child, my asthma was very poorly controlled, and I missed, on average, one day in three of school, in addition to making numerous ER visits. When I was about fourteen, my asthma went into remission for seven years, and returned this February. I`ve had a lot of trouble getting and keeping my asthma under control since then.

Lately, I`ve noticed a new symptom: Some days, I`ll have the feeling of being unable to rid myself of stale air. It`s not so much that I`m short of breath as it is that I just can`t seem to exchange air efficiently. The closest comparison I can think of is the feeling that you get when you`ve held your breath for too long and you need to exhale and get some fresh air - except that my breathing seems normal.

I`m not sure if this is relevent, but it may be useful to know that when this occurs, my PEF reading is essentially unchanged from any other day at the moment (between 325 and 375, which is well into my yellow zone, as my normal maximum is 485-520, but I have a doctor`s appointment on Friday to see if my medication can be altered to bring me back up to the green zone).

I`m wondering if there`s a name for this sensation so I can explain it to my doctor and if there`s any at-home exercises or treatment I could do to relieve it. It really is very uncomfortable and it can drag on for the better part of a day, which greatly impairs my productivity at work and my enjoyment of my off-time.

Answer:

You describe a fairly common natural course of asthma with significant symptoms in childhood, lessened symptoms in teen years and then recurrence of symptoms in young adulthood. The sensation you describe is not one I can readily define but it may be that you are experiencing some air trapping due to your airways being triggered by your asthma. You should discuss these sensations with your doctor to make sure you are on appropriate medications to control your asthma. There is also a syndrome called vocal cord dysfunction which can complicate asthma and causes symptoms very similar to asthma and you should discuss this possibility with your asthma care provider (there is section on this in NetWellness database).

For more information:

Go to the Asthma health topic, where you can:

Response by:

John G Mastronarde, MD John G Mastronarde, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University