‘What’s Up Doc’ is a health column in association with The Crawley Observer, which gives you the opportunity to ask questions regarding general health and wellbeing.
Answers are provided weekly from our specialist consultants at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, Surrey. If it’s a long-standing illness or simply a worry which you would like to get off your mind then we would like to help.
This question appeared in The Crawley Observer on Wednesday 15 May 2013, to readers across Surrey and Sussex. The question and answer is below, as it appeared in the newspaper.
Read the response by Dr Mike Wilde, consultant respiratory physician:
I am 47 years old and a non-smoker. Recently I have been experiencing shortness of breath and a lot of discomfort in my chest. I keep hoping it will go away but it does not. I was wondering what it could be? I am quite worried and just want to know the possibilities. Hope you can advise.
Dear reader, I am sorry to hear that you are suffering from breathlessness - it is a distressing symptom. Breathlessness can be caused by a number of factors and I would start by looking at your lung and heart function. To find the root cause I would start by asking you lots of questions about the history of your symptoms, such as, how long have the symptoms taken to develop? Do you have any pain associated with the breathlessness? Have you smoked in the past or been exposed to any particular dusts/metals? What is your past medical history? For example, did you have asthma as a child? The answers to questions such as these help me to decide whether the problem lies with your lungs or another part of your body.
My next step would be to establish how bad your symptoms are and make a formal diagnosis. I may recommend you take a lung function test which will give me an idea of your lung capacity. I also use Computer Tomography (better known as CT scans) to look at lung tissue. A CT scan gives a very detailed view of the lung tissue and can show whether there is any long term damage.
If the issue does not look like it is with the lungs, I would refer you to see another specialist for their opinion. Once I have made a formal diagnosis I would prescribe a tailored treatment plan and closely monitor your progress.
It is difficult to say here what the exact cause of your symptoms might be but I would like to reassure you that we should get to the bottom of it and with appropriate treatment you should start to feel better. Please visit your GP to get the ball rolling.