Shortness of breath (Dyspnea)

We Primary Care - Best Primary Care Knowledge Site


Dyspnea, often known as shortness of breath, is the sensation of not getting enough oxygen into the lungs. During this time, you may also have chest tightness.

Breathing problems may indicate the presence of a variety of medical disorders, the most common of which are heart and lung illnesses. Temporary dyspnea may occur with strenuous exercise or other forms of physical activity, however, it is unusual.

The symptoms associated with dyspnea include breathing that is uncomfortable, feeling of being out of breath, having difficulty getting enough fresh air, and a sense of suffocation or drowning.

It is mainly characterized by difficulty breathing or labored breathing. It may last one or two minutes. It might also be a symptom that lasts a long time.

When the condition is moderate, you may notice that your lungs are not getting enough oxygen. Although suffocation-like symptoms may occur in extreme cases, this is not the case most of the time. Chest tightness may occasionally accompany dyspnea or heavy breathing episodes.

Dyspnea may be caused by a multitude of reasons, making diagnosis challenging. Diagnostic procedures like chest imaging, pulmonary function tests, and echocardiography may be used.

Dyspnea should be treated at the same time as the underlying illness or disease. It may be treated medically or surgically, depending on the underlying cause. A pleural effusion, for example, may induce dyspnea, and emptying fluid from the chest cavity can help with shortness of breath


Physical activity often causes dyspnea in the short term. Your body may have trouble absorbing enough oxygen after hard exertion, and you may have trouble obtaining enough oxygen.

It is normal to take a few minutes to regain your breath in these situations. This is a common occurrence that improves with rest, and within a few minutes, you will resume regular breathing.

If you are at a higher height and are not acclimated to inhaling less oxygen, you can have temporary dyspnea. Before embarking on a high-elevation adventure, it is recommended that you contact a climbing specialist.

If a piece of food or another item becomes stuck in your airway, you may have acute dyspnea. Breathing will be more difficult if you suffer a lung injury or major blood loss.

Mild shortness of breath might occur over time rather than in acute spells. Doctors may be able to detect chronic dyspnea if symptoms linger for more than one month. This is often the outcome of long-term underlying issues.

Dyspnea may be caused by a variety of medical problems. Sudden, severe dyspnea must be treated as a medical emergency at all times.

A variety of factors may contribute to chronic shortness of breath, including the following:

Asthma: The narrowing of the airways may make breathing difficult at times.

Heart failure: The heart is unable to efficiently pump blood into and out of its chambers. Fluid may collect in the lungs as a result, making breathing more difficult.

Lung illness: Lung disorders like COPD caused by cigarette smoking, may produce respiratory difficulties. Tumors, such as lung cancer, may cause long-term dyspnea.

Obesity: Being very overweight may place pressure on the lungs, making breathing more difficult.

Sickness: Breathlessness may occur as a result of a fitness loss caused by idleness or sickness.

Infections: Bronchitis and pneumonia are both illnesses that may cause mucus to develop, obstructing airflow to certain areas of the lungs. This has the ability to reduce the oxygen flow to the bloodstream.

Injury: Breathing may be difficult if you have a broken rib as a consequence of an accident. Both bleeding and anemia may diminish the body’s supply of red blood cells, resulting in a reduction in the quantity of oxygen provided by the blood.

Medications: A constricting sensation in the chest may be caused by some medicines. Blood cholesterol-lowering drugs and beta blockers, both of which are used to treat hypertension in asthmatic patients, may cause this symptom.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor right away if you develop significant shortness of breath that interferes with your ability to function. If your shortness of breath is accompanied by other symptoms like chest discomfort, nausea, a blue color to your lips or nails, or a change in mental alertness, get help right away. These signs and symptoms point to a heart attack or pulmonary embolism.

If you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to shortness of breath, seek medical attention:

·         Trouble breathing when lay down

·         Fever, chills, and coughing

·         Wheezing

·         Heavy breathing that intensifies

Shortness of breath may sometimes signal the existence of a potentially fatal illness. Thus it is crucial to consult your physician.