Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is an inability to satisfy the oxygen demands of your body. It is also known as dyspnea.  It is a fairly common complaint and it can occur due to a number of reasons. It varies in severity and symptoms and causes vary in different individuals. People usually describe it as a suffocating feeling with the tightening of chest. Shortness of breath might be short lived or it might turn into a recurrent and prolonged phenomenon.

It is to be remembered that shortness of breath is not abnormal in all the cases. It is normal to have  shortness of breath on vigorous exercise, extremes of temperature, obesity and high altitudes. In other cases, it may indicate some serious disorder taking place in body.



The main causes of shortness of breath are listed below:

  • Asthma

  • Cardiac tamponade

  • Heart attack

  • Upper airway obstruction

  • Cardiomyopathy

  • Pericarditis

  • Anemia

  • Broken ribs

  • Generalized anxiety disorder

  • Guillain-Barre syndrome

  • Myasthenia gravis

  • Asthma

  • COPD

  • Heart dysfunction

  • Interstitial lung disease

  • Obesity

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)

  • Pulmonary embolism

  • Pneumonia

  • Pneumothorax



The shortness of breath is a very easy and common symptom to diagnose as everyone of us knows about it and we can tell in case we have such problem. However, if the patient is confused, doctor can make a quick diagnosis by taking a history and performing a brief physical examination of patient to find the underlying cause. Different tests might be performed if needed.



There is no specific treatment available for dyspnea as it is not a disease but a symptom indicating some disease. If the underlying disease is resolved, it will get off automatically. However patient is generally advised to quit smoking, lose weight, avoid pollution, and take care of some preexisting disease. By observing small preventive measures, shortness of breath can be treated and prevented.