Shortness of breath or dyspnea is a discomforting condition where people face difficulty with their breathing. Heart and lung disorders can inhibit the air from getting fully into the lungs and cause trouble breathing.
The problem of dyspnea varies from person to person and the duration of this condition can last for about a few hours to a few days and sometimes to about a few weeks. It is usually a warning sign of a serious medical condition. If you are experiencing shortness of breath, contact a physician right away.
Most of the times shortness of breath occurs as a side effect of another medical emergency. Aside from heart and lung disorders shortness of breath can occur as a result of anemia, as a result of hyperventilation or because of smoking habits or pollutants in the air that cause irritation. Dyspnea can also occur as a result of chronic conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis and pulmonary fibrosis.
A person with dyspnea (shortness of breath) may experience the following signs and symptoms:
If you experience these symptoms it is advised that you seek help from your healthcare provider right away, then on consultation with him/her you notify the doctor of your medical history. Avoid smoking and environmental pollutants, do not share eating utensils with anyone and take warms baths.
Shortness of breath occurs when you don't feel like you can get sufficient air into your lungs. This terrifying feeling is described as dyspnea by doctors. It might be a sign of a variety of health problems. Depending upon the health condition, doctors recommend various treatments. Normally, shortness of breath can go away by doing some exercises, taking medications, etc. In some cases, doctors also recommend oxygen therapy.
Shortness of breath can be prevented or relieved on its own. Steps that may be beneficial include:
Shortness of breath is usually associated with a state of physical exertion or exercise. But in some cases, it may be related to some serious health issues including heart disease, lung tissue diseases, obstructions to airflow, and diseases related to the chest walls and chest muscles. Symptoms that indicate that shortness of breath is serious include the following:
Summary: Shortness of breath may be related to physical exertion but it becomes a serious concern when accompanied by symptoms including anxiousness, bloody sputum, pain or tightness in the chest, cough, dizziness, fatigue, etc.
Shortness of breath has been classified into two types:
Certain body positions can improve or worsen the symptoms of shortness of breath in some people. People with certain types of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease may experience worsened symptoms while lying down flat.
When a person experiences sudden shortness of breath, then the condition is known as acute dyspnea. Conditions that can cause acute dyspnea (sudden shortness of breath) include:
COVID-19 Symptoms: Shortness of breath is one of the significant symptoms of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) . The other common symptoms are dry cough, fever and fatigue.
When the shortness of breath lasts for weeks, then it is known as chronic dyspnea. The following conditions may cause chronic dyspnea:
Besides the aforementioned conditions, a number of other medical conditions may also adversely affect normal breathing. These include Anxiety disorder, Lung cancer, Tuberculosis, Myasthenia gravis (a condition causing muscle weakness), Croup (usually in young children), Pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue around the heart), Guillain-Barre syndrome, Epiglottitis, and Kyphoscoliosis (a chest wall deformity).
Shortness of breath may become worse at night. This can be a serious condition and may need medical care and attention on an urgent basis. Important reasons for this include the following:
Summary: Shortness of breath is accompanied by worsening of the symptoms, especially at night. The reasons include chronic shortness of breath and paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea.
Breathlessness is a state of the body when it requires more oxygen than it is actually getting. It may be acute or chronic which means sudden occurrence and occurring over a period of time respectively.
Lungs automatically start breathing at a faster rate in such conditions to fulfill the increased demand for oxygen in the lungs. Shortness of breath is one of the symptoms of breathlessness which may occur alone or along with another symptom i.e difficulty breathing.
Summary: Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are the related symptoms of breathlessness that may occur independently or side by side. Breathlessness provokes faster breathing to fulfill the increased demand for oxygen.
A physician will ask you to share your symptoms and medical history. He may perform spirometry, a lung function test that helps in measuring the amount of air your lungs can blow in and blow out. It also tracks the speed with which your lungs perform this task. This test is usually performed to diagnose COPD and asthma.
Some of the tests that he may ask you to undergo include:
People who are suffering from asthma, cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, severe allergic reactions, Covid-19, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are eligible for taking breathing treatment. Apart from them, this treatment can also be given to those who are feeling breathless.
People with normal breath or people who are experiencing shortness of breath due to pollution, anxiety, or being overweight are not eligible for the treatment. They can simply do some exercises to combat this problem.
Patients who have been prescribed bronchodilator medications such as beta-2 agonists are likely to experience side effects such as muscle aches, headaches, trembling sensations, sudden palpitations and nervous tension.
Side effects of corticosteroids if used for long can cause side effects such as high blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, easy bruising, osteoporosis, mood swings, muscle weakness and eye disorders.
In order to prevent any future attack of dyspnea you need to adhere to certain post-treatment guidelines such as quitting the habit of smoking both first-hand and second-hand and losing weight (as that reduces stress on the lungs and heart). Also, it is advised that you try to take precaution against inhaling environmental pollutants.
Dyspnea is usually associated with low oxygen levels in the blood (a condition known as hypoxia or hypoxemia). Poor oxygen levels in the blood can adversely affect levels of consciousness. Severe dyspnea that continues for a long time can lead to temporary or permanent cognitive impairment. It may also worsen symptoms of other medical problems.
The results of this treatment can be permanent if the patients adhere to the post-treatment guidelines well. Environmental triggers and other lung infections can once again lead to dyspnea.
Shortness of breath is a condition that may result from multiple factors. Therefore, it may not be possible to prevent this condition in certain circumstances. However, a person can follow the below-mentioned measures to reduce the likelihood of chronic shortness of breath from getting worse.
Eating certain foods aid in improving the air passageway. If you have been dealing with Asthma, allergies or you are trying to quit smoking, then these nutrients could be a boon for treating the shortness of breath.
Apart from following the above diet. You must also take care of the foods that cause gas.
Foods that cause gas should be avoided in shortness of breath. Bloating reduces the space for your lungs to breathe. So, limit or cut them out from your diet. Some of the foods to avoid are:
Shortness of breath is related to an inability of a person to take enough air to breathe. It may or may not be a serious concern. In normal cases when there is not a medical emergency, one can adopt certain home remedies to control and manage the condition.
This includes consumption of some specific food items which can ease the symptoms. Fresh ginger is one of those eatables which is preferred to be taken in such conditions.
Summary: Shortness of breath may not be a serious concern in normal cases, hence can be controlled and managed by home remedies. Consuming fresh ginger is one such method.
If you are experiencing swelling in your feet, ankles or facing problems while lying flat, a high temperature, spiky chills, and cough or wheezing, then it is time to consult a doctor. Also, if your shortness of breath becomes more severe, you should visit a doctor.
We can calm shortness of breath and anxiety by doing diaphragmatic breathing. During the condition when we are undergoing shortness of breath, we usually breathe from the mouth or chest. But diaphragmatic breathing actually can help in such conditions. Steps involved in the same include the following:
Summary: In general conditions, we overcome shortness of breath through an increased rate of breathing from the mouth or chest. But diaphragmatic breathing is the more effective way to calm down such conditions.
It depends on one's condition of lungs. Sometimes the patient recovers soon. However, certain conditions are so chronic that it takes several months to recover from shortness of breath.
Some alternative treatment methods include some breathing muscle strengthening exercises and homeopathy.
Following are some of the physical exercises that you can take up to improve your breathing:
Summary: Shortness of breath is medically termed dyspnea. In this condition, a person experiences insufficiency of air in the lungs. It can elevate several health problems if left unaddressed. So, it's a good idea to keep track of how much breathlessness you're experiencing. In an emergency case, it is recommended to consult a doctor.