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Chris C.
Chris C., Nurse
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 1074
Experience:  Nurse with with 10+ yrs. in wellness care, geriatrics, hospice and acute care.
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I have smoked for 15 years I quit 3 months ago due to shortness

Customer Question

I have smoked for 15 years I quit 3 months ago due to shortness of breath....since I quit I have been walking up hills around 2 miles a day I do get short of breath walking up hills which seems to be improving. I also can jog a mile in 11 mins.....why do I still have this shortness of breath when im doing very little but can walk and jog pretty well for not exerising in 20 years my chest gets tight but not from exercise more when I'm at rest or doing very little.....could this be copd or emphysema I have no medical insurance for 2 months I just feel an xray and lung funtion test would put my mind at ease I'm 36 old and otherwise healthy no coughing no chest colds no spitting up phelm only the shortness of breath
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Health
Expert:  Chris C. replied 3 years ago.
This is not likely copd since you are not experiencing the shortness of breath all the time. Symptoms of copd would be:

  • Constant coughing, sometimes called "smoker's cough"
  • Shortness of breath while doing activities you used to be able to do
  • Excess sputum production
  • Feeling like you can't breathe
  • Not being able to take a deep breath
  • Wheezing

Emphysema symptoms would include:


  • Wheezing

  • Coughing

  • Bringing up phlegm (if chronic bronchitis also is present)

  • Tightness feeling in the chest

  • Barrel-like distended chest

  • Constant fatigue

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Morning headaches

  • Weight loss

  • Swelling of the ankles

  • Lethargy or difficulty concentrating


Both of these conditions would cause you to have shortness of breath both while resting and more so when jogging. Given the length of time that you smoked and the time that has elapsed since you stopped there is another likely cause of this problem and that would be anxiety. The body after having nicotine for a very long time is "hard wired" into having it to function normally. You may not be aware of this but the body could be giving off a signal that you want a smoke. This would get worse of course if you were resting and doing nothing when the brain can focus on this craving. While jogging the brain is busy with many other things and so the focus is not on the lack of nicotine.


Since you smoked for so long I'm sure that you will be having some shortness of breath as a result but the increase when resting would be do to the anxiety. This can take several months and up to a year to fully pass and the body to stop craving the nicotine/habit of smoking. This should resolve by itself without medical intervention but if you experience chest pain, excessive shortness of breath, etc. you will want to get in with the urgent care clinic and they may prescribe something to calm the anxiety.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

So if this were copd or emphysema it would be very difficult to run a mile. In 11mins ?I can run a half mile in 5 mins I also did that 6 min walk test thing Dr use I covered 580 meters with no problem at all. I also walked 5 miles 2 days ago...xanax does help with the shortness of breath but does not take it away completly.....what do u think of the exercise I can do?


Expert:  Chris C. replied 3 years ago.

Yes if this were either you would have extreme difficulty jogging at all. Given the fact that you smoked for so many years you are doing good in your pace. If the xanax helps it may need to be adjusted or another medication prescribed so you will want to discuss this with your dr. You will normally experience some shortness of breath since you smoked for so long until the lungs get cleared and back to a healthy state.


Customer: replied 3 years ago.

So what your saying is by me constantly thinking about my breathing I'm causing it to become short can the mind and anxiety really do this?

Expert:  Chris C. replied 3 years ago.
Yes the mind and anxiety absolutely can cause this. Have you ever heard of "panic attacks" This is a physical manifestation of a psychological process.
Expert:  Chris C. replied 3 years ago.
Were you able to see my reply?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Yes I did I ran a mile today in 10 mins 30 secs which is 30 secs faster then a week ago....I also had sex with my wife and had no issue I can complete all these tasks without difficulty....I feel like when I think about my breathing all just makes it u really think this is anixity and not perminate lung damage??

Expert:  Chris C. replied 3 years ago.
Without an exam and based on your description it would appear that this is an anxiety issue. As you said yourself, when you think about breathing it seems to get worse so this would be an anxiety issue. This is not to say that smoking for 15 yrs has not done some permanent damage but in this case it appears that your anxiety is responsible for most of the breathing difficulty and not a physical problem.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I understand that I did smoke for a long time but I thought the lungs repaired themselves after a while

Expert:  Chris C. replied 3 years ago.
They will clear and most of your problems now seem to be anxiety related.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks for your help last thing xanax does not treat sob caused by copd and emphasyma correct?

Expert:  Chris C. replied 3 years ago.
That is correct. Xanax will not help sob caused by either but it will help if the sob is anxiety related.