Long, long, ago, in a faraway city, I worked at an Independent Pulmonary Rehab program. We had an interesting mix of patients. At this particular facility, I did all the initial intake assessments. First, everyone was on inhalers. Albuterol inhalers work great only if you have what’s called a reversible component. This is determined by having a Pulmonary Function Test. There are many types of medications that come as inhalers.
If you tell your doctor you are short of breath, and he/she prescribes an inhaler and no other tests, find a different doctor.
If you tell your doctor you get short of breath with exercise, and he prescribes an inhaler, and no other tests, such as the 6 minute walk test, find a different doctor.
Some patients come to me on 2 liters of oxygen, with a resting saturation of 85%. When I ask them why they don’t turn up the oxygen, they usually tell me their doctor told them that because they have COPD , they can’t have more oxygen or they will stop breathing. This MAY, or may NOT, be true. You will need to have an Arterial Blood Gas test to determine your baseline carbon dioxide level, which will tell us if it is safe to increase your oxygen.
Shortness of Breath has many causes, and it is important to decide if it is caused by cardiac issues, such as congestive heart failure, or by lung issues. Sometimes it’s both. But the treatments are different, and it is important to treat the cause, not the symptoms.
There is a small population of patients who experience severe shortness of breath from eye drops. If you are using a Beta Blocker type eye drop for increased ocular pressure, ask your doctor if you can change to a non-beta blocker eye drop. Do not stop using the drops before seeing the doc. Examples of beta blocker eye drops are: Timoptic, Timolol, Betimol, Betagan, Ocupress, Betoptic, and Optipranolol.
And, if you have sudden shortness breath, or gradual shortness of breath with a sudden weight gain in 2 days, get in to see your doctor.
In any case, if you feel short of breath, and the doctor throws an inhaler at you and does nothing else, try and find out WHY you are short of breath. Go easy on the salt shaker and processed foods, and pay attention to what seems to trigger the feeling and what time of day it happens. This will be valuable information for your Respiratory Therapist.