ZocdocAnswersWhat makes a woman have chest pain and trouble breathing?

Question

What makes a woman have chest pain and trouble breathing?

If I weren't an otherwise healthy middle aged woman, I'd think this was asthma. But I've never had asthma or lung troubles until two months ago when I started having trouble drawing deep breaths, plus dry coughing. What kind of illness is this?

Answer

Anyone who presents with symptoms of dry coughing with trouble drawing deep breaths should be evaluated for asthma, bronchitis, and a few other conditions. In your case, I think that asthma should be the first thing to be ruled out. Although it would be a bit unusual, it is not unheard of for a previously asymptomatic middle aged women to develop asthma. To rule out asthma, you will need to have pulmonary function tests with a bronchodilatory challenge. This involves measuring the rate of air entry and exit from your lungs and changes in that flow rate with an inhaler. Your symptoms are also consistent with bronchitis, a viral infection in the lungs which causes cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms usually do not extend past a few weeks so you history of 2 months of symptoms is not really consistent. Another possibility is pleurisy. Pleurisy is inflammation in the lining of the lung. It can be associated with cough and a viral illness. Symptoms also include trouble taking a deep breath, but this is usually because taking a deep breath is painful. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can take a more detailed history of your symptoms and perform a thorough lung exam. Perhaps you will warrant a referral to a pulmonologist for pulmonary function testing. Good luck.

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