HAPE experiences sought. Ever heard of strange cases?

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HAPE experiences sought. Ever heard of strange cases?

by Orbitolina » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:21 am

It's a long shot, but who knows one of you might know more.

Basically I am out and about a lot. There's a mountain somewhere? I have to go up even if it takes me ages to get there. However, I've never been good with heights. 1000m above sea and running becomes very difficult. 2500m makes walking very difficult. 3000m and I'm close to being a vegetable even if I spent a few nights at 2500, drive up at close to walking speed and just do a bit of casual sightseeing. Not only that. From earliest childhood on I experienced the same when running around outside, hated eater egg hunts and birthdays as it involved running. Not sure if this was present before, but at least from teenage years on I feel the same when walking uphill. Bright red head, heavy breathing, heavy legs, can't speak, stop after 50-150 steps to catch my breath for a few seconds depending on how steep and how fit I am. Old people overtake me happily chatting and I don't get anywhere. It has never stopped me though. Mind you, lungs are not blocked. It's not asthma. For me, the air in all cases lacks sufficient oxygen.

For the past few years things got worse and I get episodes of what feels like proper altitude induced edema, all the symptoms including strong peeing for the first day. Only it's not caused by being active on a high mountain but shows up a few hours after long-distance flights and after cardio training at sea level; just normal training: trying to go on a bit longer, faster or up a slightly sloping road. Those episodes last for 2-6 weeks, worst at night and are usually gone in the afternoon, rinse and repeat the next nights. Flying during an episode seems to offer relieve during the flight (might just be from sitting though), but the shortness of breath comes back with a vengeance a few hours after landing.

The annoying thing is: doctors can't find anything. Just had another heart echo. No sign of backflow, shunting, leaky valve, no sign of increase in size or strange looking associated blood vessels that might indicate pulmonary hypertension. ECG fine, an edema has yet to be found on xray (apparently it's not always visible).

The only thing found is slightly low albumin, especially when I'm having an acute episode (maybe due to the suspected edema or peeing. Kidneys are fine though), low electrolytes especially during an episode, and arterial oxygen showed as slightly low one morning in E&A. Other than that I'm healthy according to doctors and 'not everyone is meant to be active'. Great.

Please share with me your experience with HAPE: how long did it last? Did it pop up a few hours after returning to sea level (might also be that it popped up after a certain time, at which I was back at sea level)? Has anyone ever experienced something like this? Being in Scotland at the moment various Munroes are high on my list, and while they are not so high I'm still worried if I should attempt them.

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Re: HAPE experiences sought. Ever heard of strange cases?

by saltyrock » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:03 pm

I experienced what I think was HAPE on a ski trip at roughly 9,500 feet. At first, I thought I was just short of breath from the work of lifting luggage and equipment up the mountain to the base. That night was different as I experienced difficulty breathing when I lied down that improved when I sat up. I also felt had a cough that was different than ones I've had when I had bronchitis - minimal phlegm and not thick.

I am in medical training and when I go on trips at altitude now, I bring a stethoscope along. I'm hoping that it will help me figure out when I'm not just imagining HAPE by actually listening to my lungs. It was worth the price to have along for peace of mind and many good quality stethoscopes are not too expensive, eg:

Anyway, I had already paid for the trip so I ended up skiing it out and suffering through the process. My shortness of breath went away after I descended and I never had any residual effects as far as I can tell. I have not been up to that high of an altitude since and I plan to be prepared in the future.

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