Do you notice that you're frequently out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs or working out?
Do you feel suffocated or unable to take deep breaths?
You might be suffering from Dyspnea.
Let's dive deeper. We'll discuss what Dyspnea is and identify common symptoms, methods of diagnosis, and treatments.
What Is Dyspnea?
Dyspnea is a medical term for shortness of breath. It's sometimes described as "air hunger."
What Are the Symptoms of Dyspnea?
Symptoms of Dyspnea include the following:
- Breathing difficulties
- Tightness in your chest
- Difficulty taking deep breaths
- Shallow and rapid breathing
What Causes Dyspnea?
Dyspnea may occur if:
- You exert more effort than usual (e.g., when you go for a run or walk up a steep hill)
- You have an underlying health condition — such as asthma, COPD, or heart failure
- Respiratory diseases can cause acute or chronic shortness of breath
- This can make you feel breathless suddenly — even when resting
- You have anxiety
- Anxiety can cause increased heart rates — leading to quicker breathing
- Panic attacks can also cause hyperventilation
How Is Dyspnea Diagnosed?
First, your doctor might ask some questions about your condition:
- When did you first start having trouble breathing?
- How long does your shortness of breath last?
- How often do you experience breathing difficulties?
Next, your doctor may recommend tests to determine the cause of your shortness of breath:
- Physical Examination — check blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature
- Blood tests — identify anemia or other infections, check your blood oxygen levels, and see if there is extra fluid in your lungs
- Lung Function Test — determines how well your lungs are working
- Measures how much air your lungs can hold
- Measures how quickly you can take in and expel air
- Chest X-Ray or CT scan — checks for pneumonia, blood clots, or lung disorders
- ECG (Electrocardiogram) — determines how well your heart functions and detects any abnormalities
How Is Dyspnea Treated?
The treatment approach for Dyspnea depends on the underlying cause.
- If you have asthma:
- Your doctor may prescribe medications — such as bronchodilators or steroids
- You can use an inhaler as needed
- If you have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease):
- You might receive oxygen treatments
- You can practice breathing techniques to manage your condition
- If you have fluid build-up in your lungs:
- Your doctor will drain out the excess fluid
- This relieves the pressure on your lungs and helps you breathe normally
- If you have an infection or blot clot:
- Your doctor will prescribe medications to treat your condition
How Do I Manage Dyspnea?
To manage your Dyspnea, you must first understand the underlying cause.
Then, follow these steps:
- Identify your triggers and try to avoid them
- Quit smoking
- Smoking is the leading cause of COPD and many respiratory disorders
- Avoiding cigarettes can help repair and improve your lung function
- Practice breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to:
- Improve your lung function
- Manage your anxiety
- Control breathlessness caused by COPD
- Eat a healthy diet and maintain a normal BMI
- Obesity can cause shortness of breath because your body is working harder to carry excess weight
- Eating healthy foods and managing your weight can help you avoid obesity-related shortness of breath
- Use a fan to blow cool air over your face
Dyspnea is the medical term for shortness of breath.
It has several underlying causes — including intense exercise, anxiety, obesity, and preexisting respiratory conditions.
Once you understand the cause of your breathlessness, you can find the most effective treatment. Taking necessary precautions and making healthy lifestyle choices help you manage your condition.
Talk to your doctor if you experience shortness of breath that interferes with your daily activities. An early diagnosis can help you manage your condition and prevent further lung damage.