Maybe a strange title for a piece on an asthma blog but let me explain!
My asthma is not always well controlled, I have a number of triggers and I have numerous symptoms. I have many of the traditional symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. One symptom that I don’t display regularly is wheeze, sometimes I will be wheezing which in a warped kind of way cheers me up, I know that if I am wheezing people will believe me when I say that I am struggling. My problem though is that more often than not I don’t wheeze, in fact more often than not my chest will be completely silent, this is much more serious as it means that my airways have closed up completely and there is no air movement at all. If this isn’t spotted immediately and there is a delay in me receiving the correct treatment things can become very serious. The problem is that many A&E doctors will mistake a silent chest for a healthy chest, purely because there is no wheeze.
When I am struggling to move any air at all it is almost impossible to talk and do explaining to a doctor is not always easy. That is why I by medical information that I carry with me at all times it clearly states that I often suffer from a silent chest.
A silent chest or ‘silent asthma’ is extremely severe and in my case comes on pretty quickly and I detiorate rapidly. I usually suffer only mild or (more likely) no wheezing at all before a silent asthma attack. My airways become so inflamed and ‘close’ extremely quickly and I find it difficult to breathe. I am usually pretty good at spotting the early warning signs of an asthma attack and I usually prepare myself, increasing various meds (e.g. Prednisolone) and ensure that I have my nebuliser with me. If things continue to detiorate I seek medical help and things usually turn out ok. The trouble is that when I have a severe attack combined with a silent chest I detiorate so quickly and without many warning signs. These attacks are the ones which really worry me, especially with the added issue of having to communicate with and convince a doctor that just because I aren’t wheezing that I am having an asthma attacks all, never mind the fact that is actually a severe / serious one.
If the is fair to say that when I suffer a severe attack / silent chest that I will be admitted to either Intensive care or high dependency for a few days which is usually followed by a further stint on the respiratory ward recovering (and even when I am discharged from hospital it is still usually some time before I make a full recovery and return to work).
Please note that this article is about my own personal experiences on my asthma and a silent chest. Asthma varies from person to person and I am not a trained medical expert. If you are suffering from asthma, always seek medical attention!