possible COPD/Panic

Posted , 7 users are following.

I'm writing for any insights or any help I can get. I have not been diagnosed with COPD, but I did recently have a PFT, x ray and CT scan.

To be thorough and give a more complete picture of where I am I'll begin at the start. In early November I got a chest cold and sinus infection.  I was given antibiotics and mostly got better. I had a little post nasal drip left over and a very minor "throat clearing" cough. Because of this I made an appointment at a Sleep, Lung and Allergy clinic near where I had recently moved.  I actually thought when I called and spoke to the receptionist I was going to be given an appointment with an allergy doctor but when I showed up realized she was pulmonologist. I told her I had a minor throat clearing cough and a small amount of post nasal drip. That I thought maybe I had allergies, or that my issues might be the very tail end of a bad cold. I told her I was occasionally short of breath but that it was almost always ( I believed ) related to my severe anxiety issues. That I walked 15 miles a week and  felt very healthy.  Dr said she wanted to look into asthma (pulmonary function test) and also get a chest x ray "just to be safe".

 I got the chest x ray done and it was clear except there was a "shadow" on the right lung they wanted to take a look at on a CT scan. The subsequent CT scan showed nothing of concern on the right lung, however she saw tree in bud opacities on the left lung. She said the finding was of no concern and that it was probably a remnant of being ill 6 weeks ago. She said we would re scan in 2 months to make sure it was gone. No mention of emphysema or COPD after cat scan and chest x ray. I had a PFT for the first time on Monday 12/19.  I got a call about the results and she said they were "inconclusive" and that there was some hyperinflation and mild diffusion problems, but that the results did not point to a definite issue. I got off the call and was confused but mostly calm. An hour later my anxiety shot up and I went t opick up a copy ot the PFT. Big mistake. It read


FEV1, FV and FEV1/VC are within normal limits. TLC, FRC and RV are increased. Diffusion is mildly reduced. Resistance is normal; specific conductance is normal. Inspiratory flows are normal. Methacoline challenge is negative.


Tests indicate hyperinflation, air trapping and mild gas exchange impairment. Tests do not support a diagnosis of asthma. Hyperinflation and air trapping suggest underlying obstruction. In the presence or reduced diffusing capacity this could indicate emphysema. Reduction in diffusing capacity could also suggest interstitial or pulmonary vascular disease. Hyperinfaltion and air trapping are in range typically associated with dyspnea.

I called the Dr. to figure out why our quick phone call and what I was reading felt like different worlds and she basically said nothing was conclusive and again there was no clear answer and that she would repeat the CT scan in 6 weeks to make sure tree in bud opacities were gone and repeat the PFT then also. She seemed incredibly frustrated with my questions and ended the phone call by saying "I guess it's possible this could be the very beginning stages of emphysema but I don't think so. If you want I can prescribe a bronchiodiolator but it wont make much difference."

I am 44 years old. I smoked marijuana and cigarettes from 15-31. Quit from 31-37. Smoked anywhere from 1-4 cigarettes a day from 37-44. I have not had a cigarette since 12/15. I will never have one again.

I have 4 kids (twins,7yo and boys 11 and 12yo) one of who is severely disabled that I am caring for at home. I have had a panic and anxiety disorder since I was 20 years old which has always manifested in feeling like I can't breath properly or that I am struggling to get a full breath. My chest also feels heavy and tight (when I am feeling acute anxiety or having a panic attack). I have worked incredibly hard to manage, learn about, and rise above my serious anxiety issues through a lot of hard work. Prior to looking into what I thought were allergies I was doing good anxiety wise and worked through any flare ups pretty well. Since receiving  PFT results I have not been able to eat well or sleep sans a few hours. I am fluctuating between full blown panic and extreme anxiety, both are relentless and extremely uncomfortable.

My husband had to take yesterday and today off of work and I am unable to stay off the internet goggling all I can about PFT, which is confusing and scaring me more. I made an another appointment with a different well respected pulmonologist (my grammie died of emphysema at 88 after a long beautiful life and he was her Dr.) but it's not until 2/6 (I am on a cancellation list also). I fear my anxiety and panic will kill me before then.

In advance I thank anyone who offers advice, expertise encouragement, or a quick cyber hug. I am thankful for any help.

Peace and Light



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15 Replies

  • Posted

    Karen I am sure you are exagerating the problem, just as you say you commonly do. The test results you quote are all entirely consistent with what the pulmonary doctor told you.  So stop worrying and relax. At the moment, the biggest danger to your health is your own wild imagination !

    Just to be sure, never smoke again, if you crave nicotine, use patches or gum. Avoid certain simple challenges to your lungs, such as dirty, smokey environments, heavy traffic fumes, scent candles and heavily-perfumed home products and strong houshold cleaning  products such as carpet fresheners and oven cleaners. Also do your best to avoid close contact with people and children with heavy colds or flu.

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    • Posted

      Thank -you from the bottom of my heart for responding to this scared internet starnger. I am certainly my very own worst enemy right now.

      I think the past 4-5 days of excruciating anxiety has shown me that whether I am dealing with COPD or not I am dealing with an anxiety disorder that while I thought was under control is anything but.

      The racing thoughts and crippling feelings of fear are something I'm working so hard to control...so difficult when the feelings of fear manifest in feeling chest heaviness and shortness of breath (something I've felt since my anxiety started in my very early 20's). I have always been able to work through it and in doing so I've proven to myself that my physical symptoms are tied directly to my panic...but this time feels different. Mostly because I fear this paralyzing anxiety may never go away if in fact I do have COPD. Like I will always wonder whether my symptoms are related to my COPD or my crippling panic.

      And of course in my reading the internet I have scared myself beyond my wildest imaginings.

      I also know that having a disabled child who will need care long into adulthood makes me feel panicked at the thought of our family taking on an additional health care challenge (although at this point its most certainly a mental health challenge for me).

      I walk 3 miles a day, do not smoke nor will i ever again, and have an incredibly supportive husband who loves me completely. I keep reminding myself thousands of times a day "it's going to be OK no matter what" and "you are strong and capable and good no matter what",...I'm just waititng for my body to get the memo and for the anxiety to dial down a little bit so I can think more clearly.

      Thank-you again for taking the time to respond to my post. I'm vulnerable and scared and I appreciate all the help I can get.

      Peace to you


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  • Posted

    Hi Karen

    Here are some suggestions:

    1. Send all instruments of internet access off to work with your husband. If that leaves you without a phone you might have to invest in an ultra cheap phone-only phone.

    2. If your husband agrees, you can have 10 minutes/hour access while he's home.

    3. Don't go some place else to use the internet. Google officially recognized earlier this year that Dr. Google is a quack, making everyone believe they're @ death's door. They said they'd improve this but I don't see how they can.

    You've admitted that getting on the internet is making you worse. If the above suggestions don't work for you, find another way to quit googling health stuff. ED docs used to say that everyone who went to an ED thought that they had cancer.. Nowadays, everyone goes in with "proof" that their kid needs Lorenzo's oil and that they themselves have ALS+lung cancer metastasized to their brain+incipient blindness+10,000 other dire conditions, and they call ED docs liars while waving around the "proof" on their ipads.

    Would it help to know that some of the dire predictions are fakes posted by people who delight in causing havoc in the lives of others?

    There is something called "9 turns" or "9 slow turns" from Eastern medicine. I use it to slow my heart rate. Maybe it would help you. PM me if you're interested (& can't find it online lol). Otherwise, try to say a thanksgiving - to the universe if not to God - for all the good health you've got whenever you start to focus on the lung stuff. (Me, I used to give thanks for the chance to change my thoughts.)

    Consider yourself hugged.

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    • Posted

      Thank-you so much for your thoughful reply. I love your idea of saying a thanksgiving to the Uinverse for all I've got. I am trying to be patient with myself, trying to let this all play out without making it worse. I'm not doing a good job at it right now but I continue to try.


      Please know how much I appreciate you reaching out to me in my time of desperation. It's the love and kindness and connection to others that makes this life so amazing and wonderful...even when it's hard and trying.


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  • Posted

    Hi it doesn't look like you do have copd but even if you did it's by no means a death sentence if it is diagnosed at an early stage.   Many sufferers still live very long and pretty healthy lives with it.  The trouble with googling indiscriminantly is that you go from mild breathing problems to full time oxygen in 3 clicks. 

    There are lots of breathing exercises for both those with lung problems and those with anxiety.  Try a few and see how they help you.  x


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    • Posted

      hypercat...you are so right. Googling myself into hysteria is exactly what I've done.  I know because things are "inconclusive" my mind has run away with the "what if's" and because I have panic disorder my body is telling me I'm already "sick" and the conclusions are definite and horrible (in my head).

      Thanks you for caring enough about this internet stranger to type out a response. Having a connection to reassuring folks helsp a great deal.

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    • Posted

      Aw bless you Karen. It's very kind of you to say that.  I know coz I have done the same myself as do many people with an illness.  Stick to recognised sites like this one if you must google. 

      I also belong to the British Lung Foundation which covers every lung disease from asthma up to the exotic.  It is a very good site.  If you google it it will easily come up.

      It is on an umbrella site called Health Unlocked and there are lots of sites on there including a depression one and 2 anxiety ones.  x

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  • Posted

    Doesn't sound like you have COPDl, more likely you main problem is anxiety.

    Read all about it and joint a discussion forum from this page link:


    Do by guided what your medical professionals advise.

    If you smoke stop smoking if you have a fear of getting COPD.


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    • Posted

      Thank-you for your response Vee2.  My main problem at the moment is definately anxiety. I've had panic disorder from the time I was in my early 20's. I thought because I wasn't expericneing these kinds of debilitating episdoes anymore I had it under control. Then I got some unsettling inconclusive results on a few tests and I'm experiencing some of the most acute long lasting anxiety of my life. I've lost 4 pounds in 4 days and i'm llittle to begin with. I know this isn't good for my family, my body or mind so I'm fighting like crazy to get better.

      Thank-you again for your input. I appreciate it a lot.


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  • Posted

    From what I have read of your results you do not have asthma, Copd or any lung problem as your results are all normal. If you have any mild symptoms it is probably just the last bug wearing of as it can take more than 6 weeks and often a lot more to clear. However I would look into having the post nasal drip sorting out as that can cause problems with breathing
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    • Posted

      I'm hoping you're right and that whatever was causing the yperinflation, air trapping and mild gas exchange impairment that was noted on PFT was caused by being sick previously. I am encouraged by a lot of the "normal" findings and also grateful to be able to have health insurance that will allow me to investigate whatever may or may not be going on. Counting my blessings.

      Thanks for your post, I really appreciate your input!

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  • Posted

    Hey im no copd expert but i know exatctly what you are going through an also found myself on this page asking questions

    Im a chronic googler an 100% which really messes with my anxiety

    I had a simple cold last which lasted a while and also got a post nasal drip

    Im overweight an have allergies had xrays which were clear had a spirometry test done an was normal yet i was always / still out of breath an my anxiety wont let go of the copd

    Ive learnt to stop googling as it will make my breathing harder and when my mind wonders towards copd ( been told by numerious drs i dont have ) try divert attention because it will make you feel worse

    Try relax and not stress as much as possible as a few very nice people told me in this group im going to panic myself into a heart attack

    Feel free to message me if you want to chat

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    • Posted


      Thank you so much for taking the time to commiserate with me. You sound like you know exactly what I am feeling panic/anxiety wise. I hope you you are doing well and that every day brings you a lessoning of what makes you anxious.

      Prior to all of this recent stuff when I was first diagnosed with panic disorder in my 20's I felt tight in the chest and winded all the time. I was 100% physically helathy in every way...but I always fely like I couldn't breath well. When the anxiety would disipate even a little my chest felt better. You are doing the right thing to trust what Dr's are telling you (no COPD). Now just continue to know yuor anxiety triggers and be gentle with yourself.


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  • Posted

    Hi Karen. I was recently diagnosed with COPD after a year of testing to find out why my red blood. Cells were so high. Well we finally found out and I am on treatment now BUT in the meantime my girlfriend is a nurse. Her advice to me was "not to play Dr. Google". It will drive you nuts. Hope this helps. 

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    • Posted

      I'm glad you are able to get treatment after such a long diagnostic period, that must have been very stresful. Thank-you for taking the time to answer my post, I very much appreciate it.

      Much happiness and peace in your future!

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