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Feeling tired and have shortness of breath. What could be causing this?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2009
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I have been more than usual tired for the last couple of months and have a mild shortness of breath. One day it was really bad I felt like theses no air and I thought I was going to faint. Some nights I wake up in a pool of sweat, and some nights I wake up with my heart racing really fast. Then it calms down right away. I feel like it's getting worse.

More history, it could never be in places low on oxygen (like some subways), always had an insomnia (takes me 1-2 hrs to fall asleep), possibly Chernobyl affected thyroid (my grandmother in Ukr has some serious problems with hers now, they wanted to operate on it, but said it was too tiny and aggressive, it's the opposite of the one that makes people fat and big eyed). I was also fed iodine pills at school. I'm very skinny, not really active (computer job). Had a kid 3 years ago. Eat lots of chocolate, which made my friends joke to check for diabetes. I don't eat any other kind of sugar though.
Posted Fri, 8 Mar 2013 in General Health
Answered by Dr. Luchuo Engelbert Bain 3 hours later
Hi and thanks for the questions,

Tiredness and shortness of breath have a wide range of possible causes. But generally, cardiac problems and pulmonary problems are usually excluded first. Shortness of breath form cardiac origin usually occurs with effort or when you do a physical activity like walking or running. In respiratory dyspnoe, usually occur even at rest - as in your case. Therefore, it shall be interesting to exclude a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease like asthma. Knowing whether you got a family history of asthma or not is important aspect here.

Thyroid function tests shall also be important as you rightly noticed. Hyperthyroidism can lead to wasting, at times muscle pain, cardiac problems, diarrhoea, excessive eating, sweats and a fast heart beat. Lack of Iodine usually lead to an increase in the size of the thyroid gland called goitre,and the symptoms are usually opposite to those o hyperthyroidism. lack of Iodine in this case shall be very non probable.

I would advise you run tests like a chest X XXXXXXX thyroid function tests, cardiac ultrasound, a complete blood count to access the level of hemoglobin (anemia could cause tiredness and shortness of breath). Consulting your internist/family care physician, with a good physical examination shall be useful in orienting the diagnosis, and being more exact with results of some blood tests and other morphological examinations.

Thanks as I pray this helps. Will be honored answering further questions if any.
Wish you the best of health,
Luchuo, MD.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Feeling tired and have shortness of breath. What could be causing this? 4 hours later
Thank you for your reply.
I actually feel better when exercising, that's what I do when my shortness of breath gets worse, I go for a run, and it's a bit better. My uncle has asthma, and he does all the weird wheezing and coughing sounds, which I don't do.

Forgot to mention anemia! Mom said I always had it. When I was pregnant they did blood tests and told me I had low iron. However, I do eat iron supplements, and iron XXXXXXX food all the time. So if my iron is low, then it somehow not processing, that's why I thought it was connected to thyroid? Or bones? I can't possibly eat any more iron. I do not have a goitre though, neither do I have any pains anywhere.

I don't have a family doctor that's why I'm asking here, though I'll be getting one it's all going to take some time. It only got bad for the last 2-4 months, before that I was never really ever sick.

Answered by Dr. Luchuo Engelbert Bain 4 hours later
Hi and thanks for the question.

I got your remarks. Depending on the type of anemia, in case you have it, results of the complete blood count usually orient your physician towards a particular cause, and as a consequence an appropriate treatment. Taking or having adequate Iron in the body those not automatically result in increase in the amount of hemoglobin. Its still worth doing the complete blood count.
Iron metabolism really has nothing to do with the thyroid, but is synthesized in the red bone marrow in adults. Problems with red bone marrow could result in anemia and tiredness, for sure, but shall be accompanied by other classical signs. Special and more invasive tests might need to be done to evaluate the cause of the anemia and bone marrow function in case hemoglobin levels are really that low.

Its interesting knowing that your shortness of breath improves with exercise. Thyroid function tests remain a key aspect recommended in evaluating chronic fatigue. Markers of inflammation and autoimmune diseases and exclusion of a chronic fatigue syndrome that might be setting are options to consider with respects to your symptoms.

As you wait to XXXXXXX or get a family physician, I would recommend that you try as much as possible to eat a balanced diet, more vegetables and fruits, drinks a lot of water and try to be with loved ones and may be family and avoid isolation.

Thanks and hope this helps. If you need more information or clarifications however, do not hesitate asking.

Best regards and best of health,
Luchuo, MD.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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