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Old 07-06-2013, 01:36 AM   #1
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Default Scary Medical Stuff

Ok...I'm not asking for medical advice. I know that's not what this forum is for. I'm looking for anyone who has gone through something similar or knows someone who has and had things turn out ok. Not because I'm trying to ignore what's going on, just because I have another test this Monday and right now I'm so racked with anxiety I don't think I can make it through the weekend.

So, here's what happened. I'm getting divorced. I'm self-employed (and make very little money- I just started a business) and my medical insurance is through my (soon-to-be) ex husband. I decided to go to the doctor and get a full physical/well-woman, etc. before I get kicked off his plan when the divorce is finalized. I had been having some shooting pains in my ribcage for a while, though it's probably just gas, it freaked me out enough to mention it to the doctor. She knew the insurance situation and said we might as well just do a chest xray to rule out anything really nasty, but she wasn't concerned. I am also a moderate smoker (about 1/2 a pack a day) on and off for the past 10 years (I'm 30), though lately I have been cutting back and socially smoke less than a pack a week (and after today's news, I'm never touching cigs again).

So, they did the xray at the clinic where I was this morning. The clinic is large and has an online "patient care portal" and they sent me my chest xray results with an email from the doctor this afternoon. It just said, "Your lungs are clear but your lungs are hyper inflated. I want to schedule you for a lung function test to see if you have a lung disease." This freaked me out. And since it was online I couldn't ask any follow up questions or ask how severe the hyper inflation was. Of course, I'm left with googling it, which has freaked me out severely that I have COPD or emphesema at the ripe old age of 30.

I will say I have not noticed that I am short of breath, I don't have a smoker's cough, and I run about 1.5 miles a day with pretty good wind, I think. I know I don't have asthma.

Has anyone else been through this? Is there a way to fix it? To heal it? I'm guessing like with many conditions, quitting smoking, taking up exercise, and losing weight will help. I am so freaked out right now. I'm not really looking for people to chastize me for smoking, I feel stupid and terrible about it, but I'm just hoping for positive stories that will help me get through this weekend until my lung function test on Monday.

Thank you so much.
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Old 07-06-2013, 02:17 AM   #2
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Well, I can tell you that lungs can heal. I have lung scarring caused by autoimmune disease which may or may not be Sjogren's syndrome. I was also diagnosed with asthma and lung scarring that on an xray looks like pneumonia. NSAIDs I was taking for my arthritis and fibromyalgia were causing the asthma. Several doctors diagnosed me with the earlyvsigns of copd.

Getting off NSAIDs, periodic courses of prednisone, along with diet and exercise changes drastically improved my lung health and function and I was able to get off all daily respiratory and sinus/allergy medications. I take allergy meds as needed (a few times during the year rather than multiple doses every day as a matter of course. The scar tissue still shows up on xrays, but my lung capacity has increased, especially for exercise.

That's been my experience for what it's worth.
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Old 07-06-2013, 03:15 AM   #3
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(((Hugs))) I haven't experienced that specifically, but I have been told to have tests run, so I understand the panic. Last time I had a health scare, I googled it and panicked because the results indicated uterine cancer. I know it is hard, but try to ignore what you've read. Most likely, it is something else entirely.

It sounds like you are taking this as a wake-up call, and that might be a good way to look at it. A friend of mine just quit smoking after thirty years. She switched to the e-cigarettes, and then slowly cut down the dosage of nicotine when she bought new cartridges. They are a great way to step down off of nicotine, and in the meantime, you don't have the tar and other chemicals. Of course, you might want to discuss it with your doctor before trying.

Keeping you in my thoughts. I really hope it turns out okay.

ETA: Don't feel stupid about smoking. Everyone has unhealthy habits that they need to change.
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Old 07-06-2013, 08:59 AM   #4
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First of all I am sorry that at 30, even with a history of smoking, that anything can back abnormal on your xray. Kaplods is right that the lungs are able to heal themselves, and often smokers that quit see an improvement in lung function etc. 30 is very young to have lung damage from smoking, but I suppose nothing is impossible. I know this might sound overwhelming but I woud focus on quit asap, since there is something going on and smoking is not helping it, even if it didn't cause it. I don't know a lot about diseases that effect the lungs as Kaplods had mentioned, so I don't know if its possible for those disease to show up as hyperinflation on an xray and maybe the damage isn't related to the smoking?
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Old 07-06-2013, 09:01 AM   #5
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I am a former smoker, too, it has been many years, now. Doctor's tell me my lungs are in great shape, not their words but that is what they mean.
I can email my doctor with any and all concerns, can you do that ?
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Old 07-06-2013, 09:25 AM   #6
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I don't know how much help I can be, but I seriously doubt you have either COPD or emphysema if you're not coughing, don't experience shortness of breath and are able to run 1.5 miles with no problems. That would be extremely unusual.

I am (was) a long-term smoker (over 40 years...I'm 55). I quit about 4 months ago due to concerns about potential COPD/emphysema and I did a lot of research into both diseases at the time because I was seriously concerned. Coughing and/or shortness of breath are classic signs of COPD/emphysema. For you to have either disease given what you say about your ability to run, etc....well that would be odd to say the least.

For what it's worth, my lung capacity has improved significantly in the past 4 months since I quit smoking. I can now climb a flight of stairs with ease (I would always experience shortness of breath before), I can walk briskly for long distances (before, a 2-minute brisk walk would have resulted in me running out of breath). I can't run, but that's due my knees/hips/age, as opposed to my lungs. I no longer cough all the time (indeed I rarely cough at all these days). So, regardless of how your tests turn out (and from your description, I suspect it will be nothing serious), keep up with your quit! I could kick myself for smoking for so long.
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Old 07-06-2013, 09:25 AM   #7
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I was a heavy smoker (2 packs a day) for over 20 years. I quit in 2007. At the time, I was using an inhaler 3 times a day and I had quite the annoying smokers cough. Now, I don't use an inhaler at all and the smokers cough is completely gone. I'm just sharing this to let you know that your lungs can get better. I don't really know what hyper inflation is but hopefully, you can stop smoking and heal.
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Old 07-06-2013, 10:07 AM   #8
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Old 07-06-2013, 04:00 PM   #9
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Thank you so much to everyone who responded. I am feeling much less afraid thanks to your kind words and reason. I am really emotional right now because I feel like I'm all alone, this divorce is really taking a toll on me, and I am just scared and life is very strange for me right now.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of you taking the time to make this internet stranger feel better. It really moves me to tears. I will update with what happens after I get the further tests done on Monday. Thank you all, so much, again.
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Old 07-06-2013, 05:21 PM   #10
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I am a medical assistant and I can tell you that whatever you do to improve your health will definitely help to improve your lung function, just as losing weight will help to give you more energy, help you breath better, etc, etc, etc. I am one to talk (but thats another story). I have a fatty liver and I am working on that myself by eating healthy, exercising, etc. Don't let this freak you out. Its just another hurdle for you to get over. And I can completely relate to the divorce/insurance thing, I went through it myself. Life will get better, I promise
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Old 07-10-2013, 01:21 PM   #11
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GREAT NEWS!!!

So when my lungs showed up hyper inflated on the initial chest x-ray, they thought that was a sign of disease. Usually when lungs are hyper-inflated it's because your lungs are not working very well and there's air trapped in there that your lungs can't expel. That's what they thought might be going on with me.

It turns out that I just have unusually large lungs, and I have a 20% higher lung capacity for a woman of my age and height. So, basically, my lungs showed up bigger on the x-ray because they're big lungs. I could climb mountains.

I've definitely learned my lesson, though, and have put down the cigarettes for good.

Thanks again everyone for all your support and kind words. It made all the difference.
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Old 07-10-2013, 01:54 PM   #12
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I would recommend the e-cigarettes, they're helping hubby a lot. Our doctor tells us that even if hubby can never completely kick the nicotine habit, the e-cigarettes are far, far less damaging than traditional tobacco use.
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Old 07-10-2013, 02:02 PM   #13
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That is wonderful news, Marjorie! I wish you all the best with stopping smoking. I know that cutting that habit has made a world of difference for me.
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Old 07-10-2013, 02:02 PM   #14
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They still hurt lungs though, and "hit" quite hard. Most regular smokers who try them cough.
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