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Dr. Andrew Rynne
MD
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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What causes shortness of breath?

I am a71 year old female(normally going on 35). Height 5ft, weight 11st. In 1975 my heart and lungs were damaged by an IRA bomb. Had a double angioplasty in 2001. I used to have chronic chest infections, but now, just have more and more difficulty breathing. My chest specialist says oxygen won't help, yet when the paramedics came on Friday and gave me oxygen, I felt cooler and could breathe more easily and speak. Prior to that I had blacked out and then, when regained consciousness, vomited just the clear water I had sipped through the night and the gunge from my lungs. Can you explain why oxygen will not help? The specialist says he doesn't understand why I have worsened. I think it is due to higher temperatures and constant rain, i.e. humidity? He has given me more steroids to take. But over 35 years of steroids, my skin, hair, teeth and bones have all suffered and 2 years ago they began attacking my brain cells. I was fit and healthy pror to the bomb and never smoked
Tue, 24 Jun 2014
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Geriatrics Specialist 's  Response
Hi,
Oxygen is one of the essential gases and we absorb it through the lungs. At the alveoli level, gasesous exchange takes place, where carbon dioxide is removed and oxygen is transferred into RBC. The surface area of the lung is important, as more area is necessary when the oxygen content is low in to the air we breathe.
Due to chronic infections and lung damage, the surface area for oxygen absorption/gaseous exchange would have become low. So more oxygen might be necessary.
If the oxygen percentage is too high, it can lead to death due to oxygen toxicity.
In the high temperature, the walls of the lining epithelium could be dry leading to infections, or increased mucus production, thereby reducing the bronchial lumen. Even in the cold, there is a change of bronochoconstriction.
If you have any further queries, happy to help again.
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