What is Dyspnea?

Dyspnea is a medical term of shortness of breath, which may be a symptom of a more serious medical issue.


Experiencing short breath is one of those things people fail to notice, considering it as only a normal part of a person’s life. However, people are not able to realize what a serious threat this is if not taken seriously.

Usually, people notice short breathing if it will affect their daily living, and cause serious complication to their health.

We just don’t know we already suffering from dyspnea.

What is Dyspnea?

Dyspnea is a medical term of shortness of breath that can be a warning of having a serious illness that needs treatment to prevent life-threatening situations.

Short breath manifests into various intensities, it can be mild and serious and it’s difficult to treat dyspnea because of different causes of having shortness of breath. Moreover, dyspnea is common among people who are suffering from terminal disease.

Healthy adults usually breathe 20 times a minute with a nearly 30,000 breaths a day. Though we do a lot of work in a day we should not experience shortness of breath, it may cause low productivity, and competence of a person, in work, school, or even at home. In other words, it limits the capability of a person to do work and enjoy life without worries about health.

Environmental factors have a big role in developing dyspnea, such as chemicals, fumes, being exposed to an allergen and other pollutants. Serious short breathing can be associated with hypoxia or hypoxemia and other medical problems. It can happen as a result of spending time at high altitude.

Dyspnea is common during pregnancy because of women’s alteration of breathing capacity. It is understandable due to the fact that a pregnant woman gains weight. Because of extra weight gained by pregnant women, breathing capacity increases during pregnancy.

It can be diagnosed by doctors’ complete examination of the patient’s experience on shortness of breath. A patient should tell the doctor how and when short breath occurs. This helps the physician determine what kind of treatment is needed.

A doctor may require Xray and computed tomography to avoid misdiagnosis. Electrocardiogram (ECG) may be needed if the person experiencing short breath suspected having a heart problem and spirometry test will be used to measure the airflow of the patient’s lungs.

How do you know if you have dyspnea?

You may have Dyspnea if you experience the following.

  • Feeling Breathless
  • Tightness in chest area
  • Gasping air
  • Struggling to breathe deeply

Symptoms of Acute Dyspnea

  • Pneumonia
  • Blood clot on a person’s lungs
  • Choking
  • Pneumothorax of collapsed of lungs
  • Pregnancy
  • Heart attack
  • Anaphylaxis severe allergic reaction to certain food and other allergens.
  • Symptoms of chronic dyspnea
  • Deconditioning (being out of shape)
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Swollen heart muscle
  • High blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)
  • Emphysema and other chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Interstitial lung disease (Scarring of the lungs)
  • Cardiomyopathy (Swollen heart muscle)

Exercise and physical activities play a big role in preventing dyspnea. People can develop their lungs’ strength in order to do more physical activities and stay physically fit through exercise. But ask your doctor about the kind of activities you are allowed to do to avoid other complications.

Treatment of Dyspnea

Treatment of dyspnea actually varies, depending on its cause. In some cases, there is a need for a patient to use steroids, bronchodilators, antibiotics, and other types of medicine to reduce inflammation in the lungs. Anti-anxiety meds may also help those who experience dyspnea due to psychological issues. Breathing exercises and meditation may also alleviate the symptoms.

Prevention of Dyspnea

People suffering from dyspnea can prevent having short breath by doing the following:

  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Lose weight and stay fit
  • Avoid environmental trigger like smoke from cars
  • Reduce extreme activities and exercises

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Experiencing shortness of breath should not be taken for granted. It may just be a symptom of a more serious medical condition that can be potentially life-threatening. You need to see your doctor if you will experience the following:

  • Severe short breath
  • Unable to function physically due to short breath
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Change of breathing ability
  • Increasing limits of daily activities due to severe shortness of breathing
  • Difficultness of breathing while lying down
  • Fever and cough
  • Swelling of ankles and feet

But if the underlying condition can be treated, the breathing problem may be reduced or eliminated, preventing further complications that can endanger the patient’s life.


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