Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea is a nagging condition that can make it difficult to get oxygen into the lungs. Heart problems and lungs may affect your breathing.
Certain people might have a sudden feeling of shortness of breath for short durations. Some may experience it over the course of several weeks or more.
Exercise that is harsh extreme temperatures, overweight and high altitudes can result in shortness of breath for a healthy individual. However, other than these instances, the shortness of breath is most likely to be a sign of an illness.
When to See a Doctor?
If you are experiencing unresolved breathlessness, particularly when it happens abruptly and becomes serious, consult your physician promptly.
The majority of cases of breathlessness can be attributed to conditions of the lungs or the heart. Because the lungs and the heart are responsible for transporting oxygen to your tissues and taking carbon dioxide out, issues in either of these processes impact your breathing.
The breath shortness that occurs abruptly (called acute) can be caused by a variety of causes, such as:
- The poisoning of carbon monoxide
- The tamponade of the cardiac valve (excess liquid around the heart)
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) exacerbation – the deterioration of symptoms
- COVID 2019. (COVID-19)
- Heart attack
- Arrhythmias in the heart (heart rhythm issues)
- Heart Failure
- Pneumonia (and other respiratory diseases)
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
- Pulmonary Embolism (blood clots within an artery of the lung)
- Sudden blood loss
- Occlusion of the upper airway (blockage of the airway)
If you experience breathlessness that lasts for a period of weeks or more (called chronic), the problem is usually due to:
- COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) aggravation — the deterioration of symptoms
- Heart dysfunction
- Interstitial lung disease
- The lungs are a source of fluid (accumulation of fluid in the lung)
Other medical conditions can also make it difficult to breathe sufficient air. Which includes:
- Croup (especially for children in the early years)
- Lung cancer
- Pleurisy (inflammation of the lung’s membrane)
- Pulmonary Edema (excess fluid inside the lung)
- Acute pulmonary fibrosis (scarred as well as damaged lung tissue)
- Hypertension in the pulmonary artery
- Sarcoidosis (collections of cells that are inflammatory in the body)
- Cardiomyopathy (a problem in the muscle of your heart)
- Heart Failure
- Pericarditis (inflammation in the heart’s tissue)
When is the best time to visit a doctor?
You should make appointments with your physician if your breath is short is caused by:
- Swelling of your ankles and feet
- Trouble breathing when lying on your back
- Chills, high fever, and cough
- Preexisting breathlessness
To prevent the breath shortness from becoming worse:
- Quit smoking. Quit smoking, or do not start. Smoking cigarettes is the most significant reason for COPD. If you suffer from COPD, quitting smoking cigarettes can slow the progress of the disease and prevent complications.
- Beware of exposure to pollution. As far as you are able to, keep free of allergens that cause breathing and environmental toxins, such as secondhand smoke or chemicals.
- Avoid extreme temperatures. Activity in very hot and humid conditions or very cold temperatures can intensify the dyspnea caused by chronic lung disease.
- Make a plan of action. If you have an illness that can cause breathing problems, talk with your doctor about what you can do if your symptoms get more severe.
- Be aware of elevation. When traveling to places with higher altitudes, make sure you adjust and be careful not to exert yourself until you are ready.
- Regularly exercise. Exercise can help increase your physical fitness and improve your capacity to take on activities. Exercise — in conjunction with weight loss if overweight — could reduce the amount of breath shortness due to the deconditioning process. Discuss with your doctor before embarking on a workout program.
- Make sure you take your medication. Skipping medications for chronic cardiac and lung conditions could result in less effective control of dyspnea.
- Always check your equipment. If you rely on oxygen from a supplemental source, ensure that the oxygen supply is adequate and your equipment functions well.