Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thunderstorm Asthma? Is that like my "Extrinsic Asthma"?

‘Thunderstorm Asthma’ Kills 8 in Australia

This story got my attention, not just as an interesting story but because it may shed some light on a personal mystery. Years ago, I started having some trouble getting a full breath. I had medical tests done, saw specialists and they found nothing. One doctor's best guess--and it was very clearly a guess--was what he called "extrinsic asthma."

I've had allergies all my life. As a kid, I spent 8 years going to the allergist every Friday for shots. Yes, allergy shots. Every Friday after school. That helped, but eventually we were told I was as good as the shots would get me. The severity of my allergies varies, but they're always there. I'm allergic to pretty much anything that can float through the air--pollen, dander, dust and on & on. The doctor's guess was that when my allergies sufficiently irritated my lungs, my bronchial tree would get inflamed. While not meeting the technical definition of asthma, the effect is the same. Fortunately, it's never been so severe that it has threatened my survival, and I hope it never does! But trust me, not being able to get a full breath is quite a distressing feeling. On top of that, it always takes weeks or months to go away.

My "extrinsic asthma" recurs every few years. In the past, I've been through all manner of tests. I've had more cardiac tests than I care to remember. (When you're obese, they immediately think anything like this is cardiac.) After two rounds of those, a few years apart, I stopped them from doing it again the next time. We just went with a simple EKG--no thallium heart scans, stress tests, etc.--and ruled out heart issues.

I've been to pulmonologists a couple of times. The last guy put me through lots of tests, including one that determined I have 127% lung capacity. Not sure what that compares to--127% compared to what?--but he clearly had no idea what was going on. (I wasn't actively having my issues right then, so...)

Anyhow, this "thunderstorm asthma" makes pretty clear that an allergy attack can drive asthmatic symptoms. Actually, this is pretty scary, since this thing killed people. But it validates the "extrinsic asthma" theory. Maybe it's that simple. My allergies irritate my lungs, and eventually they rebel. Now, if I could just figure out how to tell when that's building up, so I can take Benadryl or whatever and head it off. No luck with that so far, but I think I have more faith in this answer now.

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