Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea) – Causes and More

Dyspnea, also referred to as shortness of breath, is an abnormal sensation or shortness of breath where you may not be able to take deep breathing or have respiratory problems. It is a symptom that may be related to several different conditions, like heart failure, asthma and lung diseases.

What is dyspnea (shortness of breath)?

When you feel that you cannot obtain enough air in your lungs, this is called shortness of breath. Doctors call it frightening dyspnea. This may indicate numerous health complications. You could describe it as having a sense of tightness in your chest or having difficulty breathing deeply.

Shortness of breath is usually associated with cardiac and pulmonary complications. But it may also be an indication of other conditions such as asthma, allergies or anxiety. Exercising energetically or having a cold may also make you feel breathless.

Is dyspnea dangerous?

Sometimes shortness of breath may indicate a fatal or fatal health problem. Contact your physician if you:

  • I’m not breathing very well.
  • Serious shortness of breath (cannot catch your breath).
  • Still shortness of breath after 30 minutes off.

Who is affected by shortness of breath?

Due to its multiple causes, dyspnea is very common. Everyone can experience this, but it happens more frequently in people who have:

  • Heart and lung issues.
  • Past smoking history.
  • Infections.
  • Anemia (low levels of red blood count).
  • Asthma.
  • Anxiety.
  • Poor fitness.
  • Severe obesity.

What causes shortness of breath?

A number of different medical conditions can lead to shortness of breath. The most frequent causes are pulmonary and cardiac diseases. Normal respiration is dependent on these organs to carry oxygen to your body.

Shortness of breath may be acute and may not last more than a few days. In other cases, it is a chronic disease that lasts between three and six months.

What causes ongoing shortness of breath?

Conditions which can result in chronic dyspnea or shortness of breath:

  • Asthma: Narrowing in the respiratory tract caused by asthma can make breathing difficult.
  • Heart failure: During a heart failure, Blood cannot fill and empty your heart correctly. This condition can cause a build-up of fluid in your lungs, making it shortness of breath.
  • Lung disease: Lung tissue injury due to diseases such as smoking chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may cause breathlessness. Tumours, like lung cancer, may also cause shortness of breath.
  • Obesity: Excessive weight can overload your lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
  • Poor fitness: Being in bad shape because of the sedentary lifestyle or illness may make you feel shortness of breath.

What causes acute dyspnea or shortness of breath?

The factors that can cause acute shortness of breath (disappears in about one week) are:

  • Allergies: It is common for people to experience shortness of breath when they have an allergic reaction.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety may result in hyperventilation (rapid, heavy breathing).
  • Choking: Blocking or obstructing the throat can make it difficult to get air into and out of your lungs. Inhalation of food or something in your lungs also blocks the normal flow of air.
  • Pulmonary embolism: It does happen when you have a blood clot in your lungs. This condition is medically urgent.
  • Heart attack: A blockage that stops blood flow to the heart may result in frightening dyspnea. If you experience this symptom as well as other heart attack symptoms, call your doctor right away.
  • Infection: infections like, bronchitis or pneumonia can produce mucus that obstructs the flow of air into parts of the lungs. This may interrupt the diffusion of oxygen in the bloodstream.
  • Injury: A fractured rib can cause pain and difficulty breathing. Hemorrhage and anemia can reduce red blood cell counts, in reducing the amount of oxygen transported in the blood.
  • Medication: Some drugs may result in tightness in the chest. Statins (drugs that reduce cholesterol or fats in the blood) and beta-blockers given for hypertension people with asthma can lead to this symptom.
  • Extreme temperatures. Being very warm or very cold may give you the impression that you are having trouble breathing.

How can my doctor manage shortness of breath?

Your doctor will assist you in managing shortness of breath by first identifying and treating the condition causing difficulty breathing. Based on the underlying condition, your treatment can include:

  • Exercise: Your exercise can make your heart and lungs stronger. Improved overall health can make you feel less out of breath during the activity. Even with heart and pulmonary disease, cardiovascular rehabilitation could help. The provider may also recommend that you learn breathing skills.
  • Medication: Inhaled medications called bronchodilators may relax your respiratory tract if you have asthma and COPD. Pain and anxiety medicines may relieve shortness of breath.
  • Oxygen therapy: Obtaining additional oxygen from a mask or tube in the nostrils can make your breathing more comfortable. This is only appropriate when the level of oxygen in the blood is measured by a health care professional and is found to be low.

How will a doctor find out what is causing my breathlessness?

Tests include the following:

  • Physical exam: It would include things such as measuring your temperature and listening to your chest. High fever could indicate infection.
  • Pulse oximetry: A doctor uses a finger detector to look at the amount of oxygen you have in your blood.
  • Chest X-ray, CT scans or other special imaging tests: They would suggest a cause of dyspnea if you have not already been diagnosed with a chronic disease.
  • Blood tests: These tests are an indication of anemia, infections and other conditions.
  • Lung function tests: These tests indicate how well you can breathe.
  • Cardiopulmonary exercise testing: These tests show how much oxygen is inhaled and how much carbon dioxide is exhaled during exercise on treadmills or stationary bicycles.

How can I ease or relieve shortness of breath?

There are steps you can take to prevent or relieve shortness of breath. This can include the following useful steps:

  • Avoid breathing in chemicals that may irritate your lungs, such as paint vapours, pollen and car exhaust.
  • Practice breathing and/or relaxing techniques to enhance your respiratory function.
  • Quit smoking when you smoke. Do not start smoking if you do not smoke at this time.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy bodyweight.
  • Prevent activity or exercise during periods when the temperature is very high or very cold, or when wet conditions are high. If you have a lung condition, watch the air pollution alerts (ozone) broadcast on radio and television.
  • Make sure your equipment is operating properly while using oxygen.

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