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Ask Dr. Gott 4/25
'Air hunger': Reader can't get his fill
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 79-year-old male in reasonably good health for my age.
    Many years ago, I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse. It does not give me any trouble, unless it is somehow connected with my other problem. I have been diagnosed with "air hunger."
    Occasionally, I have the sensation of a shortage of air in my lungs. This causes me to cough suddenly and take several deep breaths to relieve the feeling. I have never smoked, and, over the years, I have had several normal chest X-rays. A stress test also showed no abnormalities.
    My doctor has prescribed Ativan and buspirone daily. These seem to help somewhat but are not a cure. The problem intensifies when I have a cold and at other times for no apparent reason. This has been occurring for many years.
    DEAR READER: Air hunger is a respiratory-distress condition. It is marked by labored breathing, difficulty breathing and/or the feeling of not getting enough air into the lungs. It can be very disturbing when it occurs. It is not related to mitral valve prolapse.
    Your physician appears to have taken appropriate first steps in testing. I believe the next step should be a CT scan or MRI, which show more detail and may pick up an abnormality the other tests missed. Lung masses, cancer and other conditions need to be ruled out before you can be definitively diagnosed with a benign condition.
    Since you appear to be responding favorably to Ativan (an antianxiety drug) and buspirone (a tranquilizer), your air hunger may simply be a manifestation of a panic disorder. Perhaps a psychiatrist or therapist would be the appropriate next step to take.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Pulmonary Disease."

    DEAR DR. GOTT: My husband and I have read many times about people suffering from dry mouth. We, too, have this problem, which we think is caused by some of the medication we take.
    Somewhere, I read that Tic-Tacs are good for this problem. When I go to bed at night, I simply place the mint between my lower gum and cheek. I don't suck it; I just let it dissolve during the night. It seems to keep my saliva glands working and prevents my mouth from drying out at night. I hope this may help others the way it helps me.
    DEAR READER: The Tic-Tac solution is fairly new to me. I wrote about it once, some time ago. If it works, great. My only concern is the sugar content in the mint and the possibility of cavities developing in the area where the Tic-Tac is placed repeatedly.
Readers, let me know whether you have any experience relieving dry mouth with Tic-Tacs or other candies. I will print a follow-up column in the future.
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