Shortness of breath (Dyspnea)

What is breathing problem?
shortness of breath (dyspnea)

Shortness of breath or dyspnea is the feeling that you cannot get enough air into your lungs. It can signal an underlying health problem. It is worse when you are physically active or you lie down flat. You may have other symptoms (cough or fever).

How bad is my shortness of breath or dyspnea?

Mild: Shortness of breath with moderate exertion

Moderate: Shortness of breath with minimal exertion; limiting instrumental activities of daily life (preparing meals, managing money, shopping, doing housework, and using a telephone).

Severe: Shortness of breath at rest; limiting self-care activities of daily life (eating, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, taking a bath or shower, and using the toilet).

How to manage mild shortness of breath?
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD.
  • Avoid breathing allergens and environmental toxins (chemical fumes or secondhand smoke).
  • Avoid extremes in temperature. Activity in very hot and humid or very cold conditions may magnify the dyspnea caused by chronic lung diseases.
  • If you have a medical condition that causes shortness of breath, discuss with your doctor what to do if your symptoms become worse.
  • Exercise can help improve physical fitness and the ability to tolerate activity. Exercise — along with weight loss if you’re overweight — may help decrease any contribution to shortness of breath from deconditioning.
  • Take your medications. Skipping medications for chronic lung and cardiac conditions can lead to poorer control of dyspnea.
  • Regularly check your equipment. If you rely on supplemental oxygen, be sure your supply is adequate and the equipment works properly.
How to manage moderate and severe shortness of breath?

Seek emergency medical care if your shortness of breath is accompanied by chest pain, fainting, nausea, a bluish tinge to lips or nails, or a change in mental alertness — as these may be signs of a heart attack or pulmonary embolism.

What causes shortness of breath?
  • Asthma
  • Lung diseases (emphysema)
  • Heart failure
  • Panic attacks
  • Allergies
  • Pneumonia
  • Lung Cancer
  • A blood clot in the lungs, air leakage around the lungs, and scarring of the lung tissue

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