Do you know a heavy breather whose loud inhale-exhale is a frustrating distraction? Perhaps you’ve got a friend or loved one whose loud breathing makes them sound lusty, angry, or just plain winded? After you finish teasing him or her about making obscene phone calls or being totally out of shape, you can ask that person a serious question: Do you have lung pinprick condition? For loud breathers who are otherwise healthy, lung pinprick condition may be a genetic cause of the abnormally heavy inhales and exhales.
A friend of mine (we’ll call him Arthur to spare his feelings) is a flat out LOUD breather. When we first hung out in public settings, I didn’t notice the unusually resonant sounds that accompanied his intake of air and its subsequent expulsion. There was often music, the bustle of crowds, or some other environmental factor mollifying his loud breathing. But once we hung out with softer background noise – or no background noise at all – I found myself creeped out by what sounded like methodically slow panting (which is something of an oxymoron).
It came to a head when we shared a hotel room. Distracted by the sound, I asked if he was aware that he was an unusually loud breather. He then admitted that people had told him that before, though he wasn’t sure why he was so loud. Arthur is just barely overweight (maybe 15 pounds heftier than he would prefer). He does not smoke. He walks daily and leads a fairly pedestrian urban lifestyle. He does not have asthma. Or allergies. He doesn’t even snore. None of the more obvious causes of loud breathing applied to him, and his few extra pounds could not be the sole cause of such peculiar windedness. So, we did some research into loud breathing, and we finally stumbled upon lung pinprick condition, or “LPC,” a common and basically harmless genetic condition that may account for the loud breathing in people who do not have other related medical problems.
Lung pinprick condition is, more or less, as simple as it sounds: those affected by the genetic disorder have tiny holes in their lungs that affect how deeply they need to breathe to intake air and expel it. Little has been done to research the phenomenon, as it has almost no palpable long-term effects (other than occasionally creeping out folks around them). People with lung pinprick condition do not experience pain or discomfort from the minute pinprick holes in their lung tissue, and many people don’t even know they have an actual medical condition that can be traced to their genetic makeup.
Somewhere between 2% and 3% of the population appear to carry the recessive gene for lung pinprick condition, with people of all racial backgrounds affected by it, though some studies have shown LPC to be more prevalent in particular north, central, and east Asian ethnic groups. In terms of sex distribution, lung pinprick condition seems to affect both men and women roughly equally. The tiny holes develop during late childhood and early adolescence and stay with the affected adults for the rest of their lives. There are no “attacks” (as with asthma) – just a consistently more pronounced breathing sequence and a tendency to get winded more quickly than others when engaged in exercise. Some lung pinprick condition sufferers are loud snorers, but that is not necessarily related.
With no negative medical effects, lung pinprick condition amounts to just a genetic oddity that predisposes some people to the mild social indiscretion of loud breathing. So if you’re like my pal Arthur, generally healthy but loud-in-the-lungs, a diagnosis of LPC is probably good news: nothing is terribly “wrong” with you.
Note: heavy breathing is often the result of something far more serious than lung pinprick condition. Anyone who experiences heavy breathing, unusual windedness, or other difficulty with air intake and expulsion should consult a medical professional for personalized diagnosis.