A 43-Year-Old Woman With Dyspnea, Cough, and Chest Tightness

Dora Izaguirre-Anariba, MD, MPH, CHES; Hung-I Liao, MD; Jesus C. Lanza, MD


February 26, 2018

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A 43-year-old, obese woman with medical history of multiple respiratory infections, dyspepsia, hypertension, and breathing problems during childhood presents to her primary care physician. She reports dyspnea over the past 2 years that is exacerbated by changes in weather. Her dyspnea is accompanied by heart palpitations and chest tightness. She also complains of an intermittent productive cough with yellowish sputum that has responded to short courses of antibiotics in the past.

She has visited the emergency department on more than 10 occasions during the last 6 months, with an admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), where she was treated with noninvasive ventilatory support. She is embarrassed because her partner does not want to sleep in the same room due to her heavy snoring.

She smoked as much as a pack of cigarettes per day before quitting 3 months ago. Although she has lived in the same neighborhood for the last 20 years, she recalls that a zookeeper has just moved into the apartment next door and keeps birds on his window. She acknowledges that she has not been compliant with her home medications, despite counseling given by her doctor. Today, she feels more short of breath and anxious than on previous visits.


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