Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Am I asthmatic?!

To those of you who know me, the possibility seems pretty wacky. I know it sounds crazy but hear me out. 

The other day, I was cleaning the house, attempting to get rid of all the allergens that I have recently found on that I am allergic to when I suddenly started feeling worse. It shouldn't have surprised me, considering that cleaning puts me in more contact with my allergens. But I decided to really pay attention to what was happening in my body. 

I felt even more fatigued, headache worsened, dizzy, shaky, which are the symptoms I complain most about. At this point, I usually just try to give up whatever I am doing and lay down. But sometimes I just push through, feeling like shit. 

But I decided to keep doing what I was doing paying close attention. I noticed that I was breathing heavy, wheezing--actually. I was shaky, and my heart was racing, which is when it dawned on me that I might actually be having an asthma attack. At first I thought I was crazy. 

But I know from my experience with Guy's asthma attacks that allergies and asthma often go hand in hand. I hadn't considered the possibility that I might be asthmatic until now because I don't get those attacks that you see so often in the movies: purple faced people gasping for air.

They say that the telltale symptoms of asthma are wheezing, coughing, and tightness of chest. 

For me, my presenting symptoms are slightly different. My main complaint is fatigue (sometimes yawning all day) and I just feel sick. Nauseous. Light headed. Achy. Sickness behavior, essentially. And I've been complaining about these problems for years. 

So how could this be related to asthma when the presenting symptoms seem so different? Well, if I really listen to how my body is feeling, I realize that I do feel asthma symptoms, but don't complain about them as much because they aren't as bothersome as the fatigue and sick feeling. 

I realize now that I have complained about chest pain in the past, in my very early 20's, when I started seeing the doctor to determine why I was feeling sick and having vertigo attacks. I remember thinking it was odd that when I complained of chest pain, the doctor checked my cholesterol. She told me it must be anxiety or heartburn, and so I haven't thought about it much since then. 

So yesterday I called my doctor and asked her to have me screened for asthma, if there is such a thing. She said that there really isn't any tests per se. If I am having symptoms, she decided to give me a rescue inhaler to see if the symptoms improve. If they do, then she recommends a daily preventative medicine. 

I tried it. And, crazy enough, it minimized the chest pain and fatigue. Tried it again this morning, same results. My chest pain isn't gone entirely, but I actually do feel better. I called the doc back and told her of the results, and she decided to put me on a daily preventative regimen to see if I start to feel better and use the rescue inhaler prior to any known triggers or if I am feeling badly. 

Today, on the way to the pharmacy, I had another fairly bad attack. Prior to today, I just thought I was hyper-aware of how I was feeling when I was in the car. But now I realize that my car, being 30+ years old, must be one giant allergen. Just think of all the dust mites, animal dander, etc., that must be released from the upholstered chair every time I sit down. No wonder I hate being in the car for long. 

Anyway, as I was riding to the pharmacy I started noticing that I was breathing heavier and faster. My heart started racing and I was sweating more than normal and I wanted to barf. I was dizzy, shaky and stumbly and irritable and confused. I took the rescue inhaler again, and I felt better. I would say my symptoms reduced by 60% or so. 

Now that I think about it, it probably isn't too far fetched to think that the various somatic complaints that I've had throughout my life may be related to a lack of oxygen. Just think of what happens when one suffers from altitude sickness, also caused by lack of oxygen. 

So I've been reading about the disease, and am learning quite a bit. For example, many people who are asthmatic are triggered by high humidity. Today, the humidity is uncomfortably high, which might be why my chest feels so uncomfortable and had such a horrible time getting to the pharmacy. 

If it turns out that I do have the disease, it would explain why, whenever I am subjected to strong smells I cough and get nauseous. Or like the times I cough my brains out when there is too much smoke in the house from a fire. Or when I have a huge reaction to attempting to smoke marijuana--which I have never been able to do without wanting to barf and coughing up a lung. 

I also found out that there is such thing as premenstrual asthma! Maybe, rather than suffering from PMDD, I am experiencing an exacerbation in asthmatic symptoms. This would make total sense to me. For instance, when I used to exercise at the gym, I would keep track of my heartrate in relation to incline on the treadmill. I noticed that I couldn't get anywhere near my regular incline levels. My heartrate would get up to 145 at incline 3, huffing and puffing and struggling to stay that way, whereas my heartrate normally climbed that high around incline 5-6. 

I would love to hear from anyone who may be able to shed light on this issue. 


Laura said...

It sounds like you're on to something.

Our bodies are so complicated, even too complicated for doctors. We have to do our own research.

Anonymous said...

Hi Amy, I'm so behind on blog reading. I'm glad I caught your current post as this sounds like really life changing stuff. I applaud you for your tenacious research in to just what is ailing you. Paying attention to your body's symptoms is so vital to getting to the root causes of things. Too bad the doctors can't be a little more involved in the process but I suppose they've got their hands full.

I hope you'll keep us updated as to how the daily preventive works for you.

And maybe it's time to update your vehicle. LOL