Avatar universal

Can't get a deep breath / Difficulty Breathing

Hi - I've been having difficulty breathing for at least the last 9-10 years...and it's a daily thing.  I am 31 years old, am healthy (exercise almost daily, eat healthily, am not overweight, do not smoke, and only drink socially), and yet I always feel like my breathing is extremely laboured.  I constantly yawn to try to catch a satisfying breath.  There are some periods throughout the day where it's not laboured and I feel as if I breathe normally, but then it creeps up on me and I have to start yawning again.  My nose feels very clogged all the time and my chest, stomach, and back muscles feel very constricted when breathing.  It's especially noticeable when I am working out...especially running and lifting weights.  I have to stop every once in a while just to yawn (frustrating) to stop from getting dizzy.  It's also noticeable as I am trying to go to sleep and/or when I've had a glass or 2 of wine.  I was "diagnosed" with exercise-induced asthma 9-10 years ago, but I think this was a mis-diagnosis as the inhalers never work (I've tried all sorts) and they usually end up making me feel worse.  After using the inhaler I always end up coughing up fluid and my breathing sounds gurgle-ly  (so I don't take them any more unless I feel I really need to...note that I have never had a full blown asthma attack).  I'm worried that it could be something else (was exposed to TB as a teenager, but took the "horse pills" for 6 months and was told I was fine), but none of my doctors will really listen to me.  They see that I am slim and active, and they dismiss me - I live in the UK (free socialised healthcare - so not a lot of time to spend with patients).  Has anyone else experienced this?  I see lots of threads on here with the same topic, but they all have to do with taking medications, being overweight, being a current/past smoker, being depressed/having anxiety, etc.  Please help - I'm tired of living like this.  I'm worried that I could be living with something undiagnosed that could rear it's ugly head one day.
530 Responses
Avatar universal
I have this same problem.  I've had it for over a year and have every test 3 time and even had reflux (fundo) surgery.  Nothing has helped.  I read some other entries on MedHelp from 2004 and 2006 from people who have the same thing.  I'm wondering if they were helped or if anyone has been treated for this. I am going to the cleveland clinic in a month, but a month seems like a year and not being able to breathe is driving me crazy!!
Please email at ***@****  (my girlfriends address).  Please Help.
Avatar universal
I have exactly the same symptoms.  I am 44 years old and have been dealing with this on and off for at least 10 years...it seems to occur more often as I get older.  I went to the doctor and was told it was GERD and then was given acid reflux medication.  The doctors also seem to dismiss my symptoms because I am overall very heathy.  I did have a problem with hives about 2 years ago and as weird as it seems it almost feels like I have some type of inflamation (like hives) in my lungs that makes it impossible to breath deeply.  It will suddenly disappear then return again.  I have tried cutting out alcohol, artificial sweetners, all allergy medication, diet soda, etc....and I can't get a direct link to anything that I'm injesting.  I plan on purchasing a air purifier to see if that helps....have you tried that?
Avatar universal
hi everyone...i have been unable to breath satisfyingly(if thats a word) for about 15 years now. I have been though just about every lung/cardio test out there.  I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse and was told that my shortness of breathe had nothing to with this diagnosis but have read that some people do experience shortness of breathe, so ruling out mitral valve prolaspe(MVP) might be something you want to try. I would discribe my shortness of breathe as trying to suck in air and being stopped half way and being full when it is at its worst..  Its with me everyday and some days its worse.  It seems to get worse a week or so before my menstrual cycle.  I quit smoking at the on set of this symptom, i too have tried different to relief this feeling. I hope this may be helpful to some of you...also if you find a way to relief this feeling of breathlessness, please let me know.  
Avatar universal
Hello all, I just turned 33 last month and am suffering from the same problem. I dont know where it came from, I wasnt nor had I been sick when it started..  For me it seems to come and go with out warning and when its happening I find that I become very light headed from trying to constantly take in a deep breath, its driving me crazy and the Dr's cant seem to find anything wrong. Im going in for more testing next week, I will post my findings, if any..
Avatar universal
My problems started ten years ago at age 30 when I suddenly felt myself getting out of breath while playing basketball. It seemed that any intense physical exertion would bring on feelings of breathlessness and it began to effect my play and my life psychologically. I became afraid of running and walking up more than one flight of stairs. Also, the fact that it came out of nowhere really freaked me out and I started having anxiety about diseases I might have and avoided most physical activity.

I went to my doctor and was diagnosed with having GERD and given Prevacid. I tried this and then tried Nexium and my acid reflux and coughing at night disappeared but the medicine did nothing to help my shortness of breath. I was then diagnosed as having exercise induced asthma and given an inhaler. It didn't work. I was then sent to a pulmonologist and run through a series of breathing tests and even an echogram of my chest and x-ray of my lungs. They found nothing and prescribed a different inhaler which didn't show any sign of helping even while I was taking the tests. For some reason they gave it to me anyway and I went away frustrated. Next I was sent to the cardiologist and he ran me through an EKG, stress test on the treadmill, echocardiogram before and after
exertion. All results came back as negative with an excellent ejection fraction. They did find some PVCs but said they were nothing to worry about. I went away feeling better about my heart but still had the episodes of shortness of breath.

After all of this, I finally decided to take control of the situation myself. I began an intense cardio workout program and lost weight. I changed my diet and did everything I could think of to become more healthy. At first I struggled with the conditioning and my own anxiety of losing my breath. The shortness of breath over the years had almost developed into a phobia of hard exercise. I hyperventilated many times in the beginning but after a few weeks I felt stronger and better. After a few months I was able to play basketball again and run like I used to without getting too winded. I had to rebuild my confidence as well as my fitness but everything seemed to be going OK. The only problem was that I still occasionally got the sensation of shortness of breath even though I was well conditioned and frequently became light headed as well. I became frustrated one day and did a work out even while feeling short of breath and seemed to feel better once I got moving. This got me wondering so I went to the pulmonologist while having another shortness of breath attack and my blood oxygen levels tested. They came back normal even though I felt like I wasn't getting enough air.

Today, three years later, I'm even more confused than ever. I'm left wondering if I am really short of breath or is anxiety causing me to feel that way? I also wonder if the skipped beats of my heart (PVCs) have anything to do with the breathlessness sensations. I feel better than I did before beginning my conditioning but I still don't feel like I could just up and run at full speed without grabbing my knees. I also don't feel like I've solved the problem completely - only masked it by getting in better shape. If anyone has any answers, please pass them along. I've read many posts and the common thread seems to be that the problem begins in most around the age of 30. What's up with that I wonder?
Avatar universal
I'm 23 and have been having the same problem for years.  I can be sitting calmly studying (not stressing) and suddenly can't breathe, or running and just can't get enough air.  It's not the out-of-shape gasping, it's that no matter how deeply or often I take a breath my lungs just won't take enough oxygen out of it.  If it happens on the treadmill I check my heart rate and it's relatively normal. If anyone sees a doctor who does anything other than prescribe an inhaler (which also does nothing but give me a wet cough) please let me know what they said!
Avatar universal
I have recently been having the same problem. My doc thinks they are panic attacks. But it seems to last all day long. Good luck everyone!
Avatar universal
Do doctors ever answer the questions asked?
Avatar universal
I am 26. I have just recently been dealing with the same problem. The problem started during allergy season, which for me is late April - early May.

I thought at first that it was due to a sinus infection. I am going to try and take some antibiotics because the heavy breathing started after I had a bacterial infection in my nose. I am interested to see if antibiotics will work.

I have also been taking an allergy medication called Chlorpheniramine. I have noticed that this particular over-the-counter medication works the best for me and is better than any other allergy medicines I have used. It really helps relieve the symptoms associated with having trouble breathing. If I take one in the morning, about 7:00am or 8:00am, I am usually good (no problems with heavy breathing) until 4:00pm or 5:00pm in the afternoon. At this time, the heavy breathing starts and it seems to continue, until I take another Chlorpheniramine. I usually take 2 Chorpheniramine a day. I know this might sound like a lot of medication for some, but it is not that much.

As for panic attacks, I have been known to experience these too. I am sure that a panic attack, associated with worrying obsessively about not being able to get a hearty breath of air, doesn't help make it easier to breathe.  

Here is some information on Chlorpheniramine (If you want it. I am not a doctor or a pharmacist, so please don't take my word on it. I know it has worked for me and after you read more about it, one day it might work for you. I hope this helps.):
      Chlorpheniramine relieves red, itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; itchy nose or throat; and runny nose caused by allergies, hay fever, and the common cold in adults and children over age 2. Chlorpheniramine should not be given to children younger than 2 years old because it may cause serious or life-threatening side effects in young children. Chlorpheniramine should not be given to children older than 2 years old but younger than 6 years old unless prescribed by a doctor. Chlorpheniramine tablets, capsules, chewable tablets and liquid should be used carefully in children who are 6-11 years old; the extended-release tablets and extended-release capsules should not be given to children in this age group unless prescribed by a doctor. Chlorpheniramine will only relieve the symptoms of cold or allergies but will not treat the cause of the symptoms or speed recovery. Chlorpheniramine is in a class of medications called antihistamines. It works by blocking the action of histamine, a substance in the body that causes allergic symptoms.
Avatar universal
I've started having this problem.  I cant seem to get enough air to really fill my lungs.  I am yawning constantly to try to get a full breath, it feels good to yawn really big, and the feeling of not enough air comes right back.  Sometimes its better than others.  I think I am making the problem worse by concentrating on it also.  Its very uncomfortable.

I recently lost weight, I exercise rigorously 6 days a week.  I do have hypertension, and hypothyroid, but both are controlled by medication.
Avatar universal
I wish someone had an idea of what it might be. I am 27 and I do the same things you all do to try and cope with it. It is pretty bad during allergy season, but I really don't think that's all it could be. My doctor at one point said it's because I'm focusing on it, and it's partially habit. Along with yawning to get a good, deep breath, I've also noticed a tend to burp a lot more as of late as well. Even when I drink, the way I swallow seems to be different from how it used to be.

I hope we all get an answer soon.
Avatar universal
Some thoughts... not answers.

Look into sleep apnea.
Excess weight on stomach compresses lungs.
Do you spend a lot of time in a recliner ?
Alcohol use ?
Eating too late in the pm ?

Personal experience : If I suddenly try to run for a bus (I'm 66) or up  a few stairs I can get seriously out of breath, dragging air in as if I'm about to die.

My GP recenly set me up to have a stress test ( on a sloped treadmill) but after describing to the  the above (bus & stairs) the stress folks aid that a stress test would not be suitable as they needed me to get up a good 'head of steam' in order to get useful data from my heart under stress and they recommended a pulmenary ( lung) test.

Before the appointment came around I was at a local alternative café's music fest and ended up, after a few beers, jumping up and down in the front row of the crowded café right in front of the band, dancing my merry heart out, just like the 'old days'.

The next day, somewhat worn out from my fun night, I suddenly realised "Hell..there can't be much wrong with my lungs if I could do that !" as I recall sucking in air pretty powerfully without much problem as I boogied, and I concluded that "It must be 'cos I'm so out of shape and overweight (210 lbs).

NB: I WAS dancing upright and not leaning over as I would be when going up stairs or hurrying to catch the bus.

So I've cancelled the test for now and will be working on losing weight and exercizing.

I'm fairly sure that I do have pretty serious sleep apnea* too where breathing stops many times during the night. My pillow is a mess from drooling  I toss and turn a lot too. I suffer from anxiety too.

I also drink quite a bit of wine in the evening which is not good and disturbs my sleep. I also think I spend too much time in my recliner.

Dylan (***@****)

*I was tested 7 years ago with 'inconclusive' results as I had , unfortunately, gotten hyped up at my daughter's championship ice hockey game that evening and could not sleep for the test. I've had to postpone retesting this year as there is a $400 copay I cannot afford right now.
Avatar universal
I am having the same problem and i am very frustrated. I am now beginning to wonder if it is allergies.

Im 26. i have been an athlete my whole life through college and am still very active in sports and running, not overweight, weight is not around my mid section, etc. Here are my symptoms:

earlier this summer i was having difficulty breathing...only occured at night though. i couldnt lay down. i would have to sleep propped up on 2 or three pillows. I felt like there was something squeezing my neck and throat. I went away to the mountains...i slept next to a window and caught a pretty bad cold...lost my voice, coughing a lot.
After the cold went away, i began to have even more difficulty breathing. i am training for a 1/2 marathon and noticed it during my work out---which was new, so this is when i decided to get it checked out. so i went to see my doctor who referred me to a cardiologist who referred me to a pulmonologist.

i had echo done on my heart--normal
chest xray--normal
blood tests--normal
(still waiting for the results of the allergy test though)
so like the other post said...i feel better about my heart, and my health but i still cant breathe.
Pulmonary function tests where the doctor said "it could be asthma, very mild though" he prescribed singulair and an albuterol inhaler for before i run. sometimes taking the inhaler can make me lightheaded. so i dont like using it.

the inhaler and singular definitely helped with the tightness i was feeling in my lower neck and upper chest, but not with the breathing!
and some days its better than others. and i actually do feel a little better after i do some mild cardio...but who wants to work out when they cant breathe???!!!! But it honestly is better on days i work out than on days i dont.

oh, also a did experience a bit of heartburn...and i think i had a panic attack (which was self induced i believe cuz i was so worried about not breathing) which led me to go to urgent care one time. the doctor gave me some stuff for heartburn and acid relux and so then i thought i had GERD...which can also induce asthma...so i dealt with that and now my heartburn is gone...but breathing is still not normal.

could be VCD? but i hear that VCD usually happens mostly in the morning...im am a singer and i can sing fine in the morning. my vocal coach hasnt noticed any changes in my voice...but she did notice me clearing my throat a lot which led her to suspect allergies.
so i am going to wait for the allergy test results...and pray that its allergies and some sort of antihistamine will clear it up.

I am suppose to go for a follow up doctor's appointment next week and will post again with the doctors findings.

oh yea...im suppose to get a CT scan of my chest and throat, just waiting for the insurance to approve that.

Avatar universal
I know how you all feel. I had this problem, and no, the doctors don't know what it is, because if it's not in their text books they can't figure it out, but I did. This may not be everybody's cause, but it is worth checking into.
Do you guys consume any form of aspartame, sucralose, etc, you know the low sugar diet drinks and many processed foods with MSG?
This was my problem; I discovered that aspartame is a toxin, and it wreaks havoc on people. It is converted to formaldehyde once it breaks down in the body. Formaldehyde by the way is the substance used to embalm dead people.
If you have anything that contains any of these artificial sweetners, eliminate them immediately; and yes, your neighbor, or best friend may have been drinking them for years without this problem, but not to worry, their symptoms of a different nature will creep up on them, there are a slew of symptoms that have been reported to the Fda regarding this toxin. And please don't tell me that it was 'approved' by the FDA. The FDA is not to be trusted with your health.

The first step is to immediately stop using these products and then do some sort of toxin cleanse.

Don't waste your time going to the doctor on this one, they have no clue.Most of our illnesses come from a poor diet and fixing that fixes most of them.
Do yourself a favor and eat toxin free.
Best of luck to you all.
If you want to talk about this further, email me at ***@****
Avatar universal
hi im only 16 and im having these poblems and it's driving me crazy iv'e been expieriencing these symptoms for 2 years now and i have no idea what to do ive gotten so many tests done and the doctors all say im fine, honestly this kind of scares me. i am a healthy weight and im very active. so i dont think that its because im unhealthy. i can just sit here and its like i cant take in enough air and ill have to brace myself to take a deep breath or like do a really big yawn. i have no idea whats wrong and latley its been getting worse espcecially at night it takes forever to fall asleep. i really dont want to put up with this forever i really wanna know what is wrong
Avatar universal
I had this very same problem.  For no apparent reason I had these bouts of not being able to take a deep breath.  My troubles with breathing went from occasional, to... constant.  My answer for why this was happening came when I saw a chiropractor.  I knew that back muscles are an issue when experiencing some types of breathing problems, so, long story short... I went to a chiropractor for a consult and was told that certain spots, if misaligned, may result in trouble breathing.  There is actually an area, if misaligned, that will cause breathing problems during exercise that may present symptoms similar to exercise induced asthma.   I had nothing to lose, so I started with treatment.  An X-ray, and weekly (x3 to start with) "adjustments".  Within 2 adjustments I had noticed I could breath "normally".  No kidding.  

I had visited forums like this one a TON of times, trying to figure out WHY I couldn't take a deep breath.  It was so unnerving to me.  It had me antsy and frustrated... I just started my treatments/(adjustments) a couple of weeks ago and I'm so relieved that I'm touring the boards I sought help on to spread the word about how I found an answer to my problem.  Maybe it can help others.  I had visited my physician about this problem a couple of times, but never once was this angle approached.  

Anyway, I hope this helps someone.  

About me - I'm a mid 30's female.  Pretty healthy.  Normal height and weight for my age.  Active... no health problems, really...
Avatar universal
I am going to try cutting out the toxins and a chiropractic adjustment to see if it helps.  I'm tired of living like this too.  Good luck to everyone above.  Hope you get this issue resolved soon.  It is a very frustrating feeling to have.
Avatar universal
Okay, had to go somewhere looking for an answer.  also have the deep breath problem, now for about a month, last fall for about 6 weeks.  It went away and now is back.  I am 52, female, slim,  very healthy, runner, swimmer, healthy foods, occassional red wine, plenty of sleep, good blood work, low blood pressure, etc, picture of health.  Have been this way forever.  Went to Dr. in fall, they said I was healthy and would not even order a stress test.  Same symptoms as others describe, can't get air all the way  into lungs without straining or yawning.  Now is constant, whether sitting at desk or running 5 miles.   Kind of thinking allergy related, but not sure how to test?  Don't take any medications and don't really want to just start allergy meds if that isn't it.   And I have never been allergic to anything before. Very maddening at this point.  
Anybody have this problem associated with allergies?
Avatar universal
Do any of you people suffering form this constantly hold your stomach in because of a belly/gut?  I am thinking this could be an issue.
Avatar universal
Im 23 years old and I've been having this same problem as most of you for at least 10 years. I've been to the doctor many years ago and was diagnosed with a mild form of asthma related to allergies (although I do not have allergies). I was given an albuterol (sp?) inhaler and singular (perscription allergy/asthma meds). They didn't seem to help any.
         I also have anxiety problems and panic attacks which don't help with the breathing. So its hard for me to determine whether the "not being able to get a deep breath" is from a medical condition or anxiety.
        I just went to the doctor yesterday and they tested to see if I had asthma or not... it turned up to be very mild so they weren't sure if this is what was causing the problem. I also have Mitro Valve Prolapse (heart murmmer). My doctor said this could be a symptom of this and if it is it could cause problems in the future (so if any of you guys also have this I would get it checked out by getting an ECHO test done) I am getting this test done next week. My doctor said if it isn't this then it may just be anxiety. If anyone finds anything out let me know please!
Avatar universal
I am 27 years old. This, as you name it 'condition', is making my life hell for over 4 years now. First time it happened, I was still jogging every night. It just stroke me one day and it destroyed my whole summer. I was suffering a lot those days, grasping for the air, dreaming for that one, deep precious breath that will change everything. And then I saw so many doctors. And it turned out - NOTHING. I am realizing now that this comes suddenly but it usually has long history behind (anxiety is not always the case,you may be under some sort of psycho-physical pressure). In my case it starts with mental extortion (my studies for example)... In the first stage of the 'condition' I usually go through panic attacks which are the worst of all, then I slowly develop serious breathing problems. For example this spring it started with two weeks panic attacks, I would be always almost fainting, really scary. But with the time I understood that nothing will happen to me and panic episodes vanished. But breathing issue remained to bother me and it developed other, even more disturbing health problems. Trying to cope with my breathing, I started to swallow air which caused reflux (my eating is horror now, I am burping all the time). Sometimes I even feel that my lungs are so run out and irritated....that they can not fight with this anymore. So heavy and tired...And just one month ago everything was perfectly fine.
Avatar universal
Xanax, chiropractor, vitamins, large doses of vitamins, prayer, patience and faith.

I pray for us all
Avatar universal
Yes, patience and belief is crucial...
Avatar universal
I've been recently feeling like  i have trouble breathing, im only19 years old. I have to yawn every couple of seconds to make sure im not going to stop breathing. I'm also haveing trouble eating, when i eat something or drink something i get this pressure in my chest like i cant burp and its so painful it feels like i cant breath. I've been diagnosed with anxiety im on Xanax and two kinds of medication for that, but none of it seems to help my breathing. I dont understand where this came from i was doing great with the whole anxiety thing and then all of the sudden I have been trouble getting a deep breath.I'm not haveing the panic attacks anymore just this uncomfortable breathing. I'm finding it very hard to do my normal routine, i stopped exercising and smoking because i think i might die if i do either. Please if anyone else is haveing these type of symptoms let me know thank you
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