Get E-Book on COVID-19

Common Medical Conditions Data Verified

Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Published on Dec 27, 2018 and last reviewed on Aug 13, 2020   -  5 min read

Abstract

Abstract

The medical term for shortness of breath is dyspnea. Learn about the types, causes, associated symptoms, and treatment for dyspnea.

Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)
Contents

What Is Dyspnea?

Dyspnea is the medical term used for shortness of breath. It is the feeling of not having enough air in the lungs. A healthy individual usually breaths in and out from 14 to 20 times a minute, making it 30,000 breaths a day. Any physical work or cold can alter this breathing pattern, but apart from that, you should never feel out of breath. It can be a sign of some serious health problem and should be addressed immediately. Extreme cold conditions can also cause shortness of breath. Negligence is the main reason for the state to progress further.

What Are the Types of Dyspnea?

Depending on the duration and onset, it has two forms:

1. Chronic Dyspnea: This is when you feel out of breath while doing simple everyday routine tasks, such as walking, standing, bending, etc. It is long-lasting and usually due to some underlying chronic disease.

2. Acute Dyspnea: Here, you suddenly feel short of breath, and it might accompany other symptoms like fever and cough. It might last for a few minutes to an hour.

3. Platypnea: This refers to the condition where the breathlessness occurs when a person is in an upright position. It can be relieved by sitting down or resting for a while.

4. Trepopnea: It is the type of breathlessness that occurs when a person is lying on one side. The patients tend to lie down on the opposite side of the affected lungs.

5. Orthopnea: When a person is lying down flat on his back and suffers from shortness of breath, it is known as orthopnea.

6. Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea: It refers to the episode of coughing and breathlessness at night. Nocturnal refers to the night time.

Acute and chronic dyspnea are categorized according to the duration of occurrence. All the other types occur depending on the variations in positions.

What Are the Causes?

Shortness of breath is the most common sign of some underlying health condition. It is majorly due to some heart and lung diseases, as these are the organs that help transport oxygen to the tissues and remove carbon dioxide. So, any problems in the heart and lungs have a direct effect on your breathing.

The reasons for developing acute shortness of breath are:

The conditions causing chronic shortness of breath are:

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dyspnea?

The signs and symptoms that one might have are as follows:

Diagnosis:

On your first visit, the doctor will examine you and listen to the breathing sounds. Then the doctor might order a few tests to diagnose the underlying cause. Some of the tests that might be needed are:

• Spirometry: It is a lung function test used to measure the amount of air that you can blow out and into your lungs and how fast you can do it.

• Pulse Oximetry: It is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood.

• Blood Tests: A complete blood count (CBC) is done to rule out anemia. Other tests are done to look for infections, blood clots, or fluid in the lungs.

• X-ray or CT (Computerized Tomography): A CT or chest X-ray will help the doctor to see if there are any blood clots in the lungs or if you have pneumonia.

• Electrocardiogram (ECG): ECG is used to see if your heart is healthy. It can detect if you are having a heart attack or some other heart problems.

What Are the Triggering Factors?

The things that can trigger shortness of breath are environmental pollutants like:

When to See a Doctor?

If you are feeling out of breath frequently and without any apparent reason, it is best to consult a doctor, as it can be due to some serious medical condition. If shortness of breath is accompanied by chest pain, loss of consciousness, and nausea, it might be a sign of a heart attack or pulmonary embolism. If it increases on lying down, it is a sign of heart failure. Shortness of breath accompanied by cough, fever, and chills can be a sign of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or pneumonia.

What Are the Treatment Options?

The treatment is generally done by treating the underlying disease. Depending on the cause, the different treatment options are:

  1. Pulmonary Rehabilitation: If your shortness of breath is caused due to any lung disease, you should consult a pulmonologist. The doctor will teach you breathing exercises which might help you to overcome the lung disease. Supplemental oxygen might be required to keep you from feeling out of breath. The treatment for commonly seen respiratory problems are:

    1. Asthma - Generally, bronchodilators, steroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs are used for the treatment of asthma. Salbutamol, Formoterol, Ipratropium, Tiotropium, Theophylline Beclomethasone Dipropionate, Budesonide, and Fluticasone are some of the medicines used.

    2. COPD - Bronchodilators and steroids are prescribed for patients suffering from COPD. Physical exercise, diaphragmatic breathing, and oxygen therapy also help.

  2. Cardiac Rehabilitation: If any heart-related problem is making you feel out of breath, consult a cardiologist. Once the doctor treats your heart problem, you will notice an improvement in the way you breathe.

    1. Heart Failure - Patients with heart failure are advised to limit salt and water intake. They are also prescribed diuretics, beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors drugs. In some cases of heart failure, a pacemaker might be implanted.
  3. Diet and Exercise: If being overweight is the cause, following a healthier diet and exercise will help. Yoga is the best exercise for increasing your lung capacity.

What Are the Precautionary Measures?

If you suffer from chronic dyspnea, the following preventive methods might help:

Get help from our online platform for more information.

 

This is a sponsored Ad. icliniq or icliniq doctors do not endorse the content in the Ad.

Frequently Asked Questions


1.

What is the most common cause of shortness of breath?

The most common causes of shortness of breath are heart failure, asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), interstitial lung disease, and psychogenic problems linked with anxiety. Shortness of breath is called dyspnea, and if it occurs suddenly, it is called acute dyspnea.

2.

How do I get rid of my shortness of breath at home?

Home remedies for breathlessness include inhaling steam. Drinking black coffee will help as the caffeine in it reduces tiredness. Eating fresh ginger will cure breathlessness caused by a respiratory infection.

3.

Is shortness of breath serious?

Breathing difficulties caused by extensive exercises and mere nasal congestion cannot be a harm. But if it is due to heart or lung problems, it is a serious sign and requires help from a doctor.

4.

How do I know if my shortness of breath is heart-related?

To diagnose heart diseases, specific laboratory tests are required. Highly specific imaging techniques are required for an accurate diagnosis. Consult a doctor to start with a diagnosis.

5.

Can dehydration cause shortness of breath?

Dehydration can cause the mucus to thicken and get sticky. It slows down the respiratory rate. Thereby susceptibility to illness, allergies, and other respiratory problems increases. Water is essential to keep nasal passages, bronchial tubes, and lungs moist. Dehydration can cause breathing problems.

6.

How do you test for shortness of breath?

Pulse oximetry, electrocardiography (EKG), and chest x-ray are the tests available to detect shortness of breath. These tested should be prescribed by an authorized physician.

7.

How do I know if my shortness of breath is anxiety?

Having panic attacks causes an alteration in the normal breathing pattern. There is a strong association between anxiety and respiratory symptoms. Our breathing becomes shallow and restricted accompanied by chest tightness. These types of symptoms are seen in person with an anxiety disorder.

8.

What medications are to be taken for shortness of breath?

A commonly prescribed drug is Ipratropium bromide. Bronchodilators such as Salbutamol and Salmeterol are prescribed as it widens the respiratory airway and increases the airflow.

9.

What is positional dyspnea?

Depending on the position of the patient, shortness of breath may vary. When a patient is sleeping sideways, breathlessness might occur and it is known as orthopnea. It is usually relieved by sitting or standing position. When a patient is sleeping at night, the sensation of shortness of breath might awaken the patient, after 1 or 2 hours of sleep. It is relieved by moving to an upright position.

10.

Is dyspnea dangerous?

A person may have dyspnea even though the levels of oxygen are in a normal range. It is just a sign that there is deconditioning in the body. An acute type of dyspnea can occur suddenly and can be dangerous, which the healthcare team has to assess right away if the symptoms get worse.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
13 Aug 2020  -  5 min read

RATING

1 review   15
Consult by PhoneConsult by Phone Video ChatVideo Chat

Tags:

Comprehensive Medical Second Opinion.Submit your Case

Related Questions & Answers


Is shortness of breath and chest pain associated with anxiety?

Query: Hi doctor, I am a female on Prednisone 40 mg and Vitamin C 2.5 g since the past five days. I have just woken up feeling short of breath and chest pain. I checked my blood pressure, and it was 120/80 mmHg and my heart rate was in 50s. My blood pressure will be usually 110/65 mmHg, and my heart rate i...  Read Full »

Coronary Artery Disease - a Common Fatal Heart Problem

Article Overview: Coronary artery disease is a common fatal condition. This article includes the symptoms, tests and treatment of coronary artery disease. Read Article


Coronary artery disease is characterized by blockages in the arteries, which supply blood to the heart. This, in turn, will cause nutrition and oxygen deprivement of the heart, which leads to pain and damage to the heart muscle. Heart dysfunction leads to symptoms or heart attack. When to Suspect C...  Read Article

What could be the reason for my acidity and chest heaviness?

Query: Hi doctor, 9 years before, I delivered my first baby. Since after delivery, I have suffered from breathing problem. Only when I release the gas or pass motion, I use to feel relieved. I underwent all the tests and everything was normal. It lasted for 2 years and then subsided. My diet was completely...  Read Full »

Popular Articles Most Popular Articles

Do you have a question on Shortness Of Breath or ?

Ask a Doctor Online

* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.

Disclaimer: All health articles published on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek the advice from your physician or other qualified health-care providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website.