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Shortness of breath and migraine

  • By Lola77

    Hi,
    my name is Lola,
    I am writing from Italy and i’m new to the forum. About a year ago i started to have some breathing problems, which I didn’t immediately associate to migraine. I told my doctor and he run some tests, he had my heart checked…nothing. All fine. Some time after, i noticed that this shortness of breath actually comes only during a migraine attack. I am bit confused since this symptom is not listed anywhere. I was wondering if any of you has a similar experience.
    In general, i have noticed a worsening of the symptoms: my migraine started when i was 14, now i’m 40 and at the beginning it was mild, would last max 24h, while now it always comes rather strong and it lasts full 3 days. I usually get 2-3 attacks every month ( in the past only once a month) and i use triptans but they only work if i take them at the very beginning and I don’t always do, for different reasons….
    Thanks in advance for taking the time to reply and sorry for my spelling mistakes!
    Lola

    reply
  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi Lola,

    Welcome to the Migraine.com discussion forum – we’re glad you found us! No worries about spelling!

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. It’s good to hear that you’ve mentioned it to your doctor and everything checked out OK. Shortness of breathe is not a common migraine attack symptom, but as I’ve learned, almost anything is possible!

    Anxiety IS a common symptom during a migraine attack and I wonder if that may be contributing to the shortness of breathe. Some people become extremely anxious during a migraine attack and experience panic attacks. Here is a video discussing panic and migraine; https://migraine.com/video/lets-talk-about-panic-attack/. And this article discusses comorbid anxiety and migraine disease; https://migraine.com/blog/migraine-comorbidities-anxiety/.

    I hope this helps. Will you let me know,
    Nancy

    reply
  • By Lola77

    Thanks for your reply, Nancy! I do suffer from anxiety, not to the point of getting panic attacks but the kind that make you worry about everything, and think of worse case scenarios etc..yea, i’m not as easy going as I would like to be! I keep it under control with yoga and self massage( reflexology) , but you may have a point as during a migraine attack i’m so focused on the migraine itself that I may not recognize the fact that i’m at the same time very anxious…and so it takes over. Yes, it is certainly a possibility. Thanks for your help, and I will keep on reading: this site is great, full of useful information! I have the impression there is much less available about migraine in my language.
    Lola

    reply
  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Thank you Lola! Please let me know if I can help more!!

    Nancy

    reply
  • By lynster

    I get what I call air hunger. It’s not really shortness of breath but like uncomfortable feeling like I’m not getting enough oxygen. I thought it was my dysautonomia but now I’m wondering if migraine or anxiety associated with it as I’m having now and having a mild attack/ or this is end of 4 day one I can’t tell. I’ve got a pulse ox thing that measures sp02 so I often check this when I get this feeling to reassure myself I’m not being starved of oxygen. It mostly helps as usually around 98/99 but occasionally I get odd readings that freak me out but I think those are just anomalies.

    reply
  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi lynster,

    It’s not uncommon to have anxiety, a panicky feeling and/or depression with migraine disease. I know my anxiety usually increases before a migraine attack.

    As far as the oxygen readings go, have you had a chance to mention the “odd readings” to your doctor? If not, you may want to at your next visit.

    Nancy

    reply
  • By krisgaertner

    I too have breathing difficulties. But it’s not when I have the headache, it’s during the phase afterward where I’m exhausted. It’s like a pressure feeling too. I’ve been checked out, no heart problem.

    reply
  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi krisgaertner,

    Thank you for sharing that with us. It’s good to know you’re not alone!

    Good to hear you’ve discussed this issue with your doctor. Does it occur after every migraine attack?

    Nancy

    reply
    • By VHan01

      I have learned to expect a migraine when my breathing starts to become a problem. I too have, what someone earlier called “air hunger.” It just feels like the breaths I take are not productive. I feel smothered. This lasts throughout the migraine. Once I start to get better air my migraine goes away.

      reply
  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi VHan01,

    Interesting! I’ve not heard that before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a possible migraine attack symptom. Do you find breathing exercises helps?

    Nancy

    reply
  • By Rxmama

    I experience this same “air hunger” and find myself frequently needing to really breathe in deep as if my normal breathing is somehow inadequate. I find it occurs more so in the prodrome and postdrome phases and nothing would suggest that it is anxiety related. It would be interesting to see a survey done to see how common it really is among migraineurs.

    reply
  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi Rxmama,

    Thank you for sharing that with us. It’s always good to know we’re not alone!!

    Nancy

    reply
  • By qr9qog

    I also have been experiencing the air hunger and chest pressure, and feel like my heart is beating really hard on occasion. I’ll feel out of breath when talking a lot. At first I didn’t realize it was connected to migraines but after experiencing it for some time it definitely is. So far a cardiac workup has not shown anything. It does not remotely appear to be anxiety-related.

    reply
    • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

      Hi qr9qog,

      Good to hear a cardiac workup was OK. Did the doctor suggestion anything to help with this?

      Looking forward to hearing from you,
      Nancy

      reply
    • By qr9qog

      Cardiologist suggested a GI consult and offered beta blockers, but my blood pressure is already low and I have a hard time taking those. I’ve finally come out of the cycle of migraines I was in and the cardiac symptoms have gone away almost completely. As no specialist has ever helped me much, I’m going to see a functional medicine doctor to see if she has other ideas.

      reply
    • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

      Hi qr9qog,

      Keep me posted on the functional medicine doctor, that will be interesting!

      Nancy

      reply
  • By glassmind

    Disautomnia (spelling?) can occur. Problems, breathing, heart rate, temperature regulation. They can also be side effects of the medication.

    Panic/anxiety symptoms need not be related to your mood. These symptoms can an autonomic response of the body.

    Do insist on your doctor addressing these symptoms. It is best if you can be evaluated while they are happening, but I know it can be hard to get to the doctor while a migraine is in process.

    Take care

    reply
    • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

      Hi glassmind,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. You’ve made great points!!

      Nancy

      reply
  • By Susan1971

    This sounds like me completely except I am unable to take the Triptans due to tachycardia. I also saw “air hunger” that others spoke of to be true for me. I usually get this before the migraine and it’s quite uncomfortable.

    reply
  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi Susan1971,

    I bet that’s uncomfortable! Have you had a chance to mention this to you doctor? I would be curious what he has to say about this.

    Wishing you a low pain day,
    Nancy

    reply
  • By Toby51

    I’m very interested to learn that others share my symptom of air hunger. I’ve been having that frequently in past few days. At the same time I’ve been very aware of my heartbeat. In the past, my heart has pounded with or without pain during a migraine. Two weeks ago I was very light headed and my heartbeat felt odd – not fast, not palpitations- just very noticeable. I went to urgent care to get checked (because I had an arrhythmia in the past that caused a serious supra-ventricular tachycardia event). The ecg showed no problems and I was told my heart seemed fine. They suggested it might be anxiety. I’ve had anxiety in the past and it doesn’t feel like this. I decided it may be migraine prodrome. This air hunger (added onto my heart beating harder) is new. It comes and goes and lasts for hours at a time.
    I watched the Migraine World Summit last week (fantastic event) and speakers repeatedly noted that migraine is a central brain disorder in which areas of the brainstem related to different functions, like sensory input and breathing and heart function, are hypersensitive and cause aura symptoms prior to the migraine spreading to the rest of the brain.
    This makes me think the air hunger may be migraine-related, although until I found this conversation thread I hadn’t heard of this as a possible symptom.

    reply
  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi toby,

    Absolutely! I have heard “air hunger” from others and seeing that migraine disease can impact our entire body, there may be a good chance it is migraine related. The more we learn about migraine disease, it’s evident there’s more to it than meets the eye!

    Glad you enjoyed the Summit, it was wonderful!

    Wishing you a low pain day,
    Nancy

    reply
  • By mimi

    I am so happy to have seen this thread! My shortness of breath and increase of heart rate and always been signs of the start of migraine. I think of them as auras that start from triggers of changes of weather, room temperature changes or lighting. They definitely are not anxiety related. I am on medication for the heart rate but the breathing………….I live with. I am sorry all of you have to as well but it is wonderful to know I am not alone. When this happens to you does your body feel different as well? I am not sure how to explain it but something happens that is more than just the breathing and the heart rate

    reply
    • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

      Hi mimi,

      Thank you for sharing that with us. It’s a relief, in my opinion, when we discover we’re not alone in our migraine disease journey!!

      I’m sure others will be along shortly to share their experiences with you.

      Wishing you a low pain day,
      Nancy

      reply
  • By cozzoi

    Hi Lola,
    I m new in this Forum.
    My migrane symptoms are the same as yours.
    When in a strong migrane attack I experiment short of breath

    reply
  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Thank you for sharing, cozzoi. It’s so important for us to know we’re not alone in our journey.

    Wishing you a low pain day,
    Nancy

    reply