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Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Asthma

Question: difficutly breathing and blue lips

 me2 - Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:01 am

hi! My Mom passed out several times in the course of one week. One day, she passed out twice and we rushed her to the hospital. At the hospital, she had those episodes when she can't breathe, passes out, then turns blue at the lips and also at the feet. At one time (the first time this episodes started), she experienced a sudden severe chest pain. Sometimes, in the middle of a conversation, she stares then just fades into unconsciousness. My Mom is 73 yrs old, was diagnosed years back with asthma, is not diabetic, a little bit overweight, does not smoke nor drink. The doctor treated it as a heart case saying that there's a clog in the heart vein and that they will have to perform an angioplasty. An angiogram showed that there were no blocks. The doctors discharged her without diagnosis even if the episodes continued. We brought her home but returned her in the middle of the night because of the same symptoms. This time the cardiologist who handled her previously, now co-managed by a pulmo doctor, said she had pneumonia (hospital-acquired) and bronchial asthma. They treated her pneumonia first. Then when she was strong enough, they performed a lung angiogram. The results were also clear. But during the procedure, she had the episode again. Later that night, she had another episode. It is very difficult for her to breathe especially if she's lying flat on the back or if there is some increase in movement. She's been in the hospital for 2 weeks now and still no diagnosis. They ruled out the heart, then the lungs. If it's asthma, why did this happen only now when she has had asthma for several years? We don't know what's wrong with her. Whatever help you can give will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to help and for sharing your knowledge and experience.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:51 pm

User avatar Hi there -- Since heart disease seems to have been ruled out, and because blueness (cyanosis) of the lips and extremities is more often related to pulmonary problems, it seems likely this is something involving the lungs. However, lung problems that come on suddenly and episodically like this are fairly unusual. This could be the result of some sort of reactive and sudden asthma, since she has been diagnosed with asthma, but if this is the case there must be something setting off these abrupt spells ending in fainting. It is very strange and disturbing. The fact she's already had "regular" asthma for a few years doesn't mean it can't change or react to a new allergen that's turned up, of course. It also sounds like in some ways as though it is a seizure with respiratory distress, and I'm wondering if maybe this might not be the case. The sudden onset, the loss of consciousness, and especially the cyanosis, suggest she may be having partial seizures which are somehow compromising her airway. This is only a guess, but since no one has figured out the whole thing (and pneumonia does not explain the sudden episodes at all), perhaps she should have a neurological exam with an eye toward ruling out seizure activity. The fact is, a few people die every year during the course of seizures (very low number) but the point is when they do it's almost always due to airway obstruction. Your mom may be having anoxic seizures even (anoxic seizures are the result of too little oxygen in the blood) and with asthma and pneumonia it's possible her oxygen saturation drops too low just long enough to trigger a seizure or partial/focal seizure and the dominoes just start to fall. Again, it's a guess, but something has to be causing this, and it's one area I'll bet has been overlooked so far,since it would be very unusual. It's certainly worth a rule-out, though, and if it helps solve the mystery, all the better.

Hope this is helpful to you. Good luck to you and to your mom. I hope someone gets to the bottom of this soon. Please keep us updated.
 me2 - Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:21 am

hi, John! Thanks so much for your post. Just want to inform you that my Mom did not make it. She passed away shortly after I entered my first post. The doctors never found out what really happened.

Thank you for caring enough to post a reply.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Sun Dec 06, 2009 10:44 pm

User avatar I am so terribly sorry to learn of your mother's passing, especially in light of the still uncertain cause. I hope you are managing okay. Take care.

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