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Friday, October 24, 2014

Is it asthma or something else?

(Shutterstock image)

This is a LONG blog, but important, so PLEASE read the whole entry!! :)

Having problems with your lungs is annoying, you really take it for granted that you can breathe! And when you can't......well, it's no fun! So how do you know what lung disease you have?

 When daughter Kitty was little, she just didn't seem to be doing well, even with all of the asthma medications she was taking. She had been hospitalized 4 times for asthma, so Asthma Doc wanted to rule out any other lung disease. He ordered a sweat chloride test to check for Cystic Fibrosis.  I have tell you - that was the LONGEST weekend of my life!!! Waiting for test results was so hard, we couldn't eat or sleep.  Luckily, her test was negative. But some people aren't so lucky. 
So what is Cystic Fibrosis?

Here's a quote from the Cystic Fibrosis foundation:

"In people with CF, a defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:
  • Clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections.
  • Obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down food and absorb vital nutrients."
 Another possibility is Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD.) Son #2 was hospitalized 8 times (2 in ICU) and also didn't respond like he should have to asthma medications. Asthma Doc sent us to the hospital to test for VCD. VCD happens when the vocal cords don't open correctly. It can be confused with asthma because the symptoms can look the same. 

"In asthma, the airways (bronchial tubes) tighten, making breathing difficult. With VCD, the vocal cord muscles tighten, which also makes breathing difficult." 
  You can read more about VCD by clicking on the link from AAAAI above.

Another lung disease is Mesothelioma - it's actually cancer of the membrane that line the lungs and stomach. It's caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used in all sorts of building materials for homes and businesses. I was contacted by Heather Von St. James, who was diagnosed with Mesothelioma shortly after her baby girl was born. Here's Heather's video about her journey. I'm helping her spread awareness about Mesothelioma!!

Last on the list is radon induced lung cancer. If you have heard of someone who has NEVER smoked, but developed lung cancer, radon might be to blame. The EPA radon site says:

"Exposure to Radon Causes Lung Cancer In Non-smokers and Smokers Alike"

What is radon? The EPA says:
"Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and water. Radon is a form of ionizing radiation and a proven carcinogen. Lung cancer is the only known effect on human health from exposure to radon in air."
 Some people confuse radon with carbon monoxide, but they are VERY different gases. So, how do you know if you have radon in your home? You can buy an inexpensive test kit (around $10) to test your home. You can check the EPA site to find the radon coordinator for your state to find help.

 So, lots of lung diseases to consider - Asthma, Cystic Fibrosis, Vocal Cord Dysfunction, Mesothelioma and Radon. If you have concerns about any symptoms and your lung health is not improving, talk to your doctor. They are MUCH smarter than I am and can run tests and rule out other causes. 

Stay healthy!!! :)


  1. That's exactly what happened to me!!

    1. I know! I thought of you when I wrote the article. It can be really hard to get the right diagnosis.

      I hope you are doing well, keep studying!!! :)