COPD or no COPD?

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I'll be honest... I am 44 and was a smoker in the dance/rave scene in the 90s. I'm not proud of it, but it happened.

I stopped 'raving', returned to a healthy lifestyle and had a daughter.

Nearly four years ago I had a chest infection that wouldnt go. Whenever I stood up, my head would spin. I would cough every night.

I went to the GP, had a chest x-ray and they said I had borderline COPD.

I had the spirometry test and the nurse said I was average for my age, weight and height. They gave me salbutamol.

I moved house two years ago and the doc here said that I do not have COPD and took me off the medication.

I've noticed the last week once the weather got colder that I'm finding it hard to walk the two miles to my daughter's school without being out of breath.

The last few days I've walked even more, maybe five miles each way, just to see if I can do it.

Today I walked six miles and felt fine.

Does anybody here think that we can kick this horrible disease without medication? Or do we sometimes get diagnosed incorrectly just to make us give up smoking?

I'm sure that sometimes our GPs use scare tactics to make us give up. It worked with me. I gave up a hell of a lot and it hurt. Now I just worry at night thinking that I have lung cancer or something similar that will take me away too soon. I'm on antidepressants because I have panic attacks. When I have a panic attack, I have a tight chest and wheezy and think I'm dying. Is this normal? Is a panic attack part of the COPD journey? Would love to hear other peoples' thoughts on this.

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11 Replies

  • Posted

    Up until about six months ago or so I had panic/anxiety attacks on a daily basis.

    It was horrible.  At times I felt as if I was dying, literally.  Finally my GP said to me one day "You have copd."  I thought, "What?"  At first, after hearing this diagnosis, I thought I must have been diagnosed years ago and forgotten about it or something or went into denial.  After doing some digging it turns out that a Dr. I had seen years before had diagnosed with me mild copd and shortly after I moved and never received her diagnosis.  Anyway, after many visits by ambulance to the ER, (twice for mini strokes) because of the panic/anxiety, a Doc. in the ER prescribed a puffer for me that actually works.  Haven't had an attack since that time.

    My body, system whatever you want to call it doesn't like meds., seems that just about every single med. that is prescribed to me gives me such terrible side effects that I have to quit taking it.  (including some antibiotics, one nearly killed me and did do further damage to my lungs).  I don't believe that doctors knowingly would diagnosis someone with an illness as a scare tactic, I do believe that they are definitely in the pharmacutical businness, ie. to make money by constantly prescribing medication to their patients. 

    So the panic attacks and feelings you prescribed are almost exactly what I felt, and for me, yes it was "normal" because I couldn't breathe!  Take care.


  • Posted

    If your current doctor says you don't have COPD and you have no symptoms after walking 6 miles, your doc may well be right.  So you don't have to kick this horrible disease since you have been told you don't have it..  That's lucky for you.

    For people with a COPD diagnosis however things are different.  In colder weather damaged lungs may have more difficulty, my lungs hurt in colder weather, naturally shortness of breath is experienced, that is life with COPD, it restricts your ability to be active, slows your mobility, increased shortness of breath etc etc.

    If your breathing difficulties worsen and your are pretty sure its not connected with panic attacks you should go back to your doctor and ask for something to help your breathe easier and make an appointment with the respiratory nurse at your GP surgery for spiro check.  It should be pretty obvious if your wheeze, tight chest only occurs when you have a panic attack.

    Just pray you never get lung cancer, but without any symptoms I would say there is no need for any worrying of this kind.

    there is a forum for panic attacks on patient uk you may wish to join:

    Some people with COPD can have anxiety attacks, but not all do, some get anxiety attacks but don't have COPD.

    Whether your doc used scare tactics on you, to make you give up smoking who knows.  Scare tactics on the one hand can be a good thing.  Especially when you are told for every cigarette you smoke from now on could cause further lung damage.  If you've ever seen anyone with extreme difficulty talking because they can't breathe, you might be able to understand how important it is to preserve lung health and in this case scare tactics are real.  It is scarey not being able to breathe because of lung damage, smoke of any kind can damage the lungs.

    If lung damage is very very mild some people can live without any noticeable symptoms and without medication.  That is fortunate.

    People have been known to be misdiagnosed with different lung conditions (there are many)  however, it unusual for a doctor to mistake a panic attack for COPD, but a patient might.

    My advice, check out the anxiety forum link provided above, but do go back to your doctor if your breathing deteriorates.  Meantime I would say enjoy your life, be proud and thankful to the doctor who scared you into stopping smoking and appreciate your ability to walk 6 miles and feel fine :O)

    Bes wishes V


    • Posted

      I was having panic and anxiety attacks because I had copd and didn't have an inhaler to help me breathe.  Once I was given an inhaler that worked for me I didn't have another attack. 

      Strange, I actually do better sleeping at night in a cold bedroom as opposed to having the heat on during the night.  Where I live it can get quite cold, been around -5C at nights recently and damp.  I pile on the covers and sleep in a very cold room and my breathing is better!  I have electric baseboard heat and it's very drying, think that has something to do with it.  Take care and breathe easy. 

    • Posted

      Thanks Vee for your reply.

      I do know what it is like not to be able to breathe. My daughter was born with a rare condition that causes her to choke (there is a website called that explains her condition). She had had pneumonia eight times now and every time she gets better I feel thankful.

      NO, I will never smoke again.

      I still worry though that I have some lasting damage and this increases my anxiety levels. I'm going to do a four mile walk today to see whether I can do it without feeling the tightness of the chest and feeling as though I will pass out. I think the more I do this, the better my lungs will be. I know you can't repair lung damage but surely it helps if you try and be active.

      My uncle died of lung cancer and it ate him away within two months. I've seen it firsthand. I constantly ask my husband, "If I had it, wouldn't I know by now?" But the problem is, we never know until it's too late xx

    • Posted

      If you are constantly getting tightness in the chest when walking you should check back with your GP, ask your GP if he she will listen to your lungs to check for infection.  Mention any other symptoms you may have.  

      I don't think doctors will xray / scan blood test for cancer unless the patients presents with specific symptoms, but you could ask if you are that worried.  It would be a waste of NHS funds to test for illness when symptoms are not present.  Likewise its pointless worrying about an illness where no symptoms are present, just because a relative died from a specific illness doesn't mean you will.  I dare say many of us if not all have relatives who died from a particular illness ie one  that resulted in their death.  Your worry about this will not be helping your panic attacks or anxiety symptoms, the more you worry about this the more panic stricken you will become.  Perhaps you would benefit from taking up relaxation / meditation classes, yoga, tai chi or just make a point of applying a relaxation time each day and do some diaphragm breathing. I am sure your doctor can also refer you for cognitive therapy or counselling to help you achieve a better level of health and relief from these panic attacks.

      Do check out the  Anxiety Disorders forum, people there may be able to give you some more tips and advise what they have found helpful.

      I do hope your daughter has improved health and that she doesn't pick up on your own anxiety problem.

      Best wishes V

  • Posted


    My consultant explained what my COPD was, for example if you could spread an healthy pair of lungs out and they could cover a football field, then mine would cover the 18 yard area, Walking 6 miles think think yourself a very lucky person, I'm out breathe just thinking about it.

  • Posted

    On what basis - tests, etc - did your present gp decide you don't have COPD?   I've never heard of any doctor using a false diagnosis of COPD or anything else for that matter to get someone to stop smoking and if what you've labelled "scare tactics" worked to stop you, then isn't that a positive thing?   Personally I wouldn't call it scare tactics to give smokers the facts about the damage smoking does. to themselves and others around them.   

    COPD is not curable, but it IS manageable:  with the right medication, healthy lifestyle, no smoking (including other people's smoke) or exposure to pollution and breathing exercises it can . be kept stable for many years.   The symptoms can also vary from day to day, so it's not unusual to be able to walk much further one day and not hte next:   I have the same experience, usually for no reason I can work out.

    If I were you I'd be having a spirometry test to check your lung function and that will determine fairly accurately whether or not you do have COPD and if so, you'll have the correct medication prescribed and hopefully get yourself to a pulmonary rehab group.

    However, if you can walk ten miles I'd be very surprised if you have COPD or anything else wrong with your lungs.

    Your panic attacks are entirely separate from your possible COPD and if the antidepressants you're taking (some of which can CAUSE anxiety in some peopel) aren't preventing them you could talk to your gp about another type and/or try meditation or Cognitive Behavior Therapy.   DON'T go off them cold turkey, that's extremely dangerous with many anti depressants.   


  • Posted

    Hi jdgf

    Unfortunately COPD is not curable. You can only manage it and do things so that it does not get worse.

    Sounds like your new doctor could be right, though you could have a very very mild form of it that does not need medication, just a change of life-style habits, which sounds like is what you have done.

    Having panic attacks may feel like you have a problem with your lungs or heart but that's all it is.

    All the best.

    Kev  (UK)  biggrin

    • Posted

      Thanks Kev. You're right that when a panic attack occurs it feels like you can't breathe but it's probably not related to the COPD.

      I think that because I was told I had it years ago, I always think that it's going to kill me. But I do know that many people suffer from this and it's a horrible thing to feel that you can't breathe.

      Maybe I need to change my anxiety meds and then I won't panic too much!

    • Posted

      Having COPD and Living with COPD doesn't mean its written in stone we will all die from COPD.  We may die with COPD but not necessarily of COPD, there is a difference.  So please don't label us all that way, its simply not the case.   Wasted, hours, days, life, worrying about something that has not happend, I am going to live till I die, maybe make that your motto.  smile  Its a good one to live by.
    • Posted

      This message isn't just for you, it's for all the people on this forum that seem to think they are experts in the panic/anxiety attack area.  I was told by my GP that the panic attacks I had been experiencing were a direct result of my COPD..  In other words, I had never experienced a panic attack until such time as the COPD reached the point of severity that I couldn't breathe, then the panic attack would follow.  I didn't have an inhaler to use when this happened, hence the attack would progress.

      Tried several inhalers before I found the one that I use now, it works and I haven't had an attack since I've had it. 

      I wish people posting on this forum would just stick to their personal stories and experiences and not tell people "their medical opinions".  Even if you happen to be a nurse or doctor, this isn't the appropriate place to post your recommendations.  Yes, I've probably been guilty of doing it myself, we human beings in general are a compassionate bunch and want to help others.  Let's just stick to what we know - our story of

      of journey with COPD.



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