So last night, I was coming home from a friend's, and all of a sudden I felt very short of breath. This literally happened just like that, one minute I was fine the next I felt I had trouble breathing. I didn't run, I hadn't been doing any exercise, nothing like that. I do smoke pot about once a week but I have never had any feeling like this before.
I'm freaked out. I saw that this shortness of breath is called dyspnea and I wanted to ask, what are the signs and symptoms I have this and do you think I should see a doctor?
Dyspnea, shortness of breath, doesn't have any signs or symptoms. It is, rather, itself a symptom. Yes, it can potentially point to other health conditions and it is possible your marijuana smoking could have something to do with it, especially if you also smoke tobacco more regularly.
Other conditions shortness of breath can be related to include:
- Infections such as pneumonia
- Heart failure
- heart attack
- Allergic reaction
- Panic attack
- Blood clot
- Choking on something
- Collapsed lung
There are other causes that are associated with chronic shortness of breath. Because it has happened once so far, you may be OK not seeing a physician just yet. Do make an appointment if it happens again.
That is not QUITE true. People suffering from shortness of breath do have other symptoms, like a tightness in the chest and so called air hunger, in addition to not feeling they can breathe in deeply. Wheezing can also be present.
I have asthma myself and I was diagnosed at 19, quite late, after moving to a new country with a different altitude, interestingly. Now I know to just take my pump when I suffer shortness of breath, but the first few times, it was incredibly scary. I know what you must be feeling like, and by all means do see a doctor even though it hasn't happened again yet.
Do you have any signs of infection? It could be something like bronchitis or even an allergic reaction to something perhaps. Shortness of breath sucks, but it also has so many possible causes that you cannot really do a self diagnosis. Even though you are not short of breath now (right? you haven't posted since), a doctor can still see if everything is fine with your lungs if you go for a checkup. If I was in your place, that's what I would be doing. Anyone asking if they should see a doctor is worried enough that they really want to, anyway.
Most people get short of breath sometimes; after running or other strenuous physical activity, after climbing stairs, after being hit by extreme temperatures, or when changing altitudes, for instance.
In other cases, when there is no obvious explanation, something else is probably going on. This something can can be serious or pretty harmless. Signs that you really need to see a doctor are:
- Severe shortness of breath.
- Chest pain. This can be due to a lung infection but also even to thinks like a heart attack.
- Fever at the same tine.
- If you're also coughing severely, especially with mucus of green, yellow, or other weird colors coming out.
- If your body is swelling up (edema).
I should add that most doctors would indeed say that anyone who's been hit by severe shortness of breath for the first time and so has no idea what is causing it should seek medical attention. This doesn't necessarily mean going to the ER, though it could. If you're short of breath even when lying down, if you're sweating a lot, if you are light-headed and feel like fainting, you should see someone right away, even if it means calling an ambulance, however.
I hope it stays away and your shortness of breath was just a fluke, but you just don't know and should probably see a doctor.
I can share a personal experience. I have hypertension and have tried various hypertension drugs over the years, mainly switched because of side effects or just because my family doctor suggested it. There was one particular one that I just started. I'll immediately also say that I'd had friends from abroad over and they left a package of cinnamon chewing gum that I used. Anyway, what happened is that I suffered from severe dyspnea in the middle of the night, and it was very frightening. I seriously thought I was going to die. My body was all swollen up and I felt like my throat was physically closing.
I called the emergency number of my family doctor clinic, and told them about both the gum and the hypertension drugs. They immediately sent a team over to my house, which is how it can work where I live, and was given some medication, I think Epinephrine, for anaphylaxis.
I was quite certain the gum was a more likely candidate that the blood pressure meds, but I was taken off those right away anyway. I've never had this experience again but I am so glad I did call the emergency number at the time. Who knows what would have happened otherwise?
The last post demonstrates that shortness of breath really can be caused by a huge variety of different factors! That does sound very scary. Good that you were able to get the care you needed immediately!
OP, the fact that you posted a day after the episode does suggest it was nothing like a heart attack or blood clot, nor anaphylactic shock, but you know what they say. Better safe than sorry! Whenever your body sends you a message that something is not right, it is better to follow up on that and to find out what is going on.