Symptom: Shortness of breath

    Few sensations are as frightening as not being able to get enough air. Although shortness of breath — known medically as dyspnea — is likely to be experienced differently by different people, it's often described as an intense tightening in the chest or feeling of suffocation. Depending on the cause, you may experience shortness of breath just once or have recurring episodes that could become constant.

    Very strenuous exercise, extreme temperatures, massive obesity and high altitude all can cause shortness of breath in a healthy person. Outside of these examples, shortness of breath is likely a sign of a medical problem. If you have unexplained shortness of breath, especially if it comes on suddenly and is severe, see your doctor as soon as possible.

    Shortness of breath
    1. Asthma
    2. Carbon monoxide poisoning
    3. Cardiac tamponade
    4. Heart attack
    5. Low blood pressure (hypotension)
    6. Pulmonary embolism
    7. Pneumonia
    8. Pneumothorax
    9. Upper airway obstruction

    Heart problems

    1. Cardiomyopathy
    2. Heart arrhythmias
    3. Heart failure
    4. Pericarditis

    Other problems

    1. Anemia
    2. Broken ribs
    3. Choking: First aid
    4. Epiglottitis
    5. Foreign object inhaled: First aid
    6. Generalized anxiety disorder
    7. Guillain-Barre syndrome
    8. Myasthenia gravis

    In the case of chronic shortness of breath, the condition is most often due to:

    1. Asthma
    2. COPD
    3. Heart dysfunction
    4. Interstitial lung disease
    5. Obesity

    A number of other health conditions also can make it hard to get enough air. These include:

    Lung problems

    1. Croup
    2. Lung cancer
    3. Pleurisy
    4. Pulmonary edema
    5. Pulmonary fibrosis
    6. Pulmonary hypertension
    7. Sarcoidosis
    8. Tuberculosis

    Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.


    Make a doctor's appointment
    Make an appointment with your doctor if your shortness of breath is accompanied by:

    • Swelling in your feet and ankles
    • Trouble breathing when you lie flat
    • High fever, chills and cough
    • Lips or fingertips turning blue
    • Wheezing
    • Stridor — a high pitched noise that occurs with breathing
    • Worsening of pre-existing shortness of breath

    To help keep chronic shortness of breath from getting worse:

    • Stop smoking. The benefits of quitting smoking are extraordinary. Once you're tobacco-free, your risks of heart disease, lung disease and cancer begin to drop — even if you've been smoking for years.
    • Avoid exposure to pollutants. As much as possible, avoid breathing allergens and environmental toxins.
    • Lose weight if you are overweight.
    • Take care of yourself. If you have an underlying medical condition, take care of it.
    • Have an action plan. Discuss with your doctor what to do if your symptoms become worse.
    • Avoid exertion at elevations higher than 5,000 feet (1,524 meters).
    • If you rely on supplemental oxygen be sure your supply is adequate and the equipment works properly.


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    Signs and Symptoms

    Skincare Health Center an online symptom search and symptom directory. Here you can find what is the symptom Shortness of breath and what does it mean, you can also check what illnesses and diseases this symptom relates to.