Fibromyalgia is a long-term status that causes pain all over the body. It’s not known what causes fibromyalgia, but it’s thought that both genetic and environmental factors can contribute to developing the condition.
It causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and other symptoms such as dizziness and headaches. Shortness of breath is as common as it is alarming for those with fibromyalgia.
What does fibromyalgia have to do with shortness of breath?
Fibromyalgia affects a person’s ability to breathe. It can create a mild or severe problem with breathing.
Causes of Shortness of Breath from Fibromyalgia
Shortness of breath from fibromyalgia is common because the numerous pains often attack the muscles used in breathing.
Because of this, shortness of breath from fibromyalgia is often triggered by even the smallest amount of physical activity or when sitting upright in a chair or lying down in bed.
There are many other reasons besides fibromyalgia that can cause shortness of breath, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
Upper respiratory infections
Upper respiratory infections are one cause of shortness of breath. If you have a cold, you may experience difficulty breathing because your nose is blocked with mucus, making it hard to get enough air. A sinus infection can also cause difficulty breathing.
Heart disease can cause shortness of breath because of the lack of oxygen reaching the heart. It, in turn, causes palpitations, chest pain, and even pain with breathing.
If you have bronchitis, it can make it hard to breathe because your lungs are inflamed. Bronchitis is usually associated with an upper respiratory tract infection or colds.
Pulmonary edema is a condition that affects the lungs and causes symptoms such as shortness of breath and fast breathing. It’s usually caused by heart failure; however, fibromyalgia can cause it as well.
If you have asthma, your airways become inflamed and narrow, making it hard to breathe. Allergies, irritants, and stress usually trigger this inflammation.
Lung cancer is one of the biggest causes of shortness of breath. It makes breathing difficult because the tumor has grown large enough to make it difficult for oxygen to reach your bloodstream.
Other Causes of Shortness of Breath
If you have fibromyalgia and experience shortness of breath, it’s important to remember to see your doctor. Although fibromyalgia can cause shortness of breath, other conditions can as well.
Pulmonary Hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs)
If you have pulmonary hypertension, your heart works harder because it has to pump blood harder than normal. It can create enough pressure in the lungs to cause shortness of breath.
Prolonged sitting and standing can cause blood clots to form in the legs and travel to the lungs if they aren’t cleared quickly. If they reach the lungs, they can block blood vessels there, which causes shortness of breath.
Emphysema affects the way air flows through your lungs. If your lungs are filled with mucus, it makes breathing even more difficult. It is another reason why shortness of breath is so common in people with fibromyalgia.
This disease attacks the lungs and makes breathing difficult because bacteria get into the bloodstream and start causing an infection.
One of the biggest dangers for people who have fibromyalgia is pneumonia. Pneumonia can be extremely dangerous to someone with fibromyalgia because the disease causes muscle stiffness, making it harder for you to take deep breaths.
Exposure to certain chemicals can cause shortness of breath. Examples of these include chlorine, ammonia, or solvents. Chemicals tend to affect everyone differently; some people are more sensitive than others.
Surgery can cause shortness of breath. If you have a major operation, such as a hip or knee replacement, it can cause your muscles to be weakened, and they become weaker and heavier than normal.
Chronic Respiratory Disease (CARD)
Stress, anxiety, and depression can all increase your chances of developing chronic respiratory disease. This type of respiratory illness is also known as hyperventilation syndrome.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
Another type of asthma that makes breathing difficult is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.
People with COPD often have shortness of breath because their airways become inflamed and narrow, making it hard to breathe.
Shortness of Breath Treatment
Because shortness of breath is so common with fibromyalgia, many treatments have been designed for this condition.
Since fibromyalgia can be caused by inactivity, your doctor may prescribe you to get more exercise.
It could be swimming, walking, or using an elliptical machine. Exercise will help keep you healthy, leading to better breathing because your lungs will get more oxygen.
If you have fibromyalgia, your doctor may recommend avoiding foods that trigger nausea and vomiting. If you eat certain foods, you could experience shortness of breath because the food won’t sit well in your stomach.
You can also try losing weight. Being overweight increases the amount of pressure put on your body, leading to shortness of breath.
Use of oxygen
Oxygen is often prescribed for people with shortness of breath. It can help open up your airways and make it easier to breathe.
Restriction of activities
You may also need to cut back on the activities you do each day, especially if you experience shortness of breath when engaging in certain activities.
For example, your doctor may tell you to skip exercise or even to sleep because those activities can increase your risk for shortness of breath.
Many medications can help treat shortness of breath. In some cases, fenoterol (Proventil, Ventolin) is prescribed for people with shortness of breath. This medication helps open up your airways and makes it easier to breathe.
Shortness of Breath from Fibromyalgia vs. Asthma
Shortness of breath from fibromyalgia and asthma is often a result of inflammation in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Exercise can also contribute to this condition because it increases these symptoms.
Shortness of Breath from Fibromyalgia vs. COPD
COPD is a chronic cough and shortness of breath due to smoking or exposure to irritants such as pollution or chemicals.
Some people with fibromyalgia experience shortness of breath which they thought was due to COPD, but it was related to the underlying disease.
Shortness of Breath from Fibromyalgia vs. Bronchitis
Bronchitis is one of the more common causes of shortness of breath in people with fibromyalgia. You may not notice that you’re having bronchitis until you have a cold or an upper respiratory infection, though.
Shortness of Breath from Fibromyalgia vs. Pneumonia
One of the biggest struggles with fibromyalgia is that it can make you very weak. If you’re weak, it could be difficult to fight off a nasty infection like pneumonia.
It will make you significantly more vulnerable to pneumonia than someone who isn’t weak, which means that your doctor will have to work harder to heal the infection.
Shortness of Breath from Fibromyalgia vs. Heart Failure
Heart failure is another common cause of shortness of breath in people with fibromyalgia. If your heart cannot pump blood with enough force, it becomes more likely that the heart’s extra work will damage the lungs.
Getting Your Breathing Under Control
As you can see, shortness of breath has several causes. No matter what is causing your shortness of breath, though, you can get it under control if you have the right tools and information.
Keep this information in mind when trying to control your condition, and don’t delay getting treatment from a doctor.
Keeping your heart and lungs healthy is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your quality of life.
Shortness of breath is a major issue for people with fibromyalgia and can make it difficult to live your life. If you’re short of breath, try to describe the sensation: for example, is your breathing restricted, fast, or both?
The more details you can share with your doctor, the better they’ll be able to help you manage your condition.