Dear Ask The Doctor: During the past 2 months, I have visited my GP several times with symptoms being shortness of breath, a feeling that my right lung was full and heavy, excessive coughing with a clear and bubbly mucus being produced only in the mornings, the rest of the day I cough insessently but cannot get anything up. Fever never gets over 99, but I am extremely tired. My GP did a chest xray and they said it was clear. They say my lungs also sound clear (strange). Anyway, I have been on steroids, a wide variety of antibiodics for both bacteria and infection, inhalers, etc. and nothing has worked, I get better for a little while and then I am back feeling like crap again. I smoked for a long time and am 57 yrs old. What is my next step? Kathy
Dear Patient: I understand how worried you are about your respiratory symptoms. In my opinion according to your symptoms and due to your smoking history, I would start by ruling out a possible Bronchitis.
In smokers, Chronic bronchitis is a common complication usually developed after many years and is caused by an inflammation of your respiratory lining, however since your symptoms are only present for two months, this diagnosis would not apply to you yet, but we should not wait for it to happen.
I would suggest you to have a second opinion, preferably with a lung specialist. A follow up chest x ray might be needed as well as sputum tests and blood work, but most importantly a pulmonary function test would give your physician a better view of your lung ability to exchange oxygen. In the meantime I would start by suggesting you to stop smoking drink plenty of fluids to dilute and clear your sputum and watch for signs of fever and get the flu vaccine. I wish you a prompt recovery.