Anyone who has experienced shortness of breath before can attest to feeling like they have just finished sprinting or climbing a fleet of stairs. Dr. Percy Morales in Houston asserts that even though the sensations are familiar with regular exercises, they can be worrying outside the context. Shortness of breath, also referred to as dyspnea, can be acute or severe.
What are the common triggers of dyspnea?
Most dyspnea causes result from heart and lung diseases. Since the organs play a significant role in transporting oxygen and eliminating carbon dioxide to and from your tissues, any condition affecting the processes will most likely affect your breathing. Shortness of breath can either be acute (happen suddenly) or chronic, lasting longer than expected. You are likely to have acute shortness of breath because of issues like:
- Pulmonary embolism
- Heart failure
- Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
- Heart arrhythmia
- Heart attack
- Obstruction in your upper airway
- Sudden blood loss
On the other hand, causes of chronic dyspnea include issues like:
- Interstitial lung disease
- Heart dysfunction
- Fluid accumulation around the lungs (pleural effusion)
How does it feel like to have shortness of breath?
Though dyspnea is a subjective sensation (you cannot measure it), it can be terrifying. Your healthcare provider might measure other factors, including blood oxygen levels likely to result from dyspnea, to know the root cause of the air scarcity. For instance, results indicating very low blood oxygen levels mean that your oxygen intake is too low and might not be in circulation. Short breath feels like it is impossible to get sufficient air into the lungs (even when you can, not fast enough). You may find it challenging to inhale and exhale, compelling you to inhale before you finish exhaling. Symptoms expected with dyspnea include:
- Chest tightness
- A feeling like you need to struggle to inhale
- Quick and short breaths
- Inability to take in full breaths
Shortness of breath is usually unexpected. You might realize that you experience breath shortness over an extended period. In other instances, the condition might be sudden, without showcasing signs. However, you may notice the symptoms when physically active, like after jogging or climbing stairs. Sometimes the breathing problem can occur even when you are resting.
When should you seek professional help with shortness of breath?
Contacting your healthcare provider anytime you experience unexpected shortness of breath is crucial. Additionally, you should not hesitate to seek medical assistance if treatments fail to alleviate your symptoms. Other worrying accompanying factors that should cause you to get professional help include:
- Persistent dyspnea lasting more than a month
- Breath shortness that persists even after several minutes of resting
- Chest pain or congestion
- Wheezing or whistling when you breathe
- Swollen ankles
- Inability to breathe, mainly when you lie flat on your back
- The condition worsening even after using an inhaler
- The situation worsens after being active
Dyspnea can be a symptom of a health concern, ranging from mild to chronic, and might occur suddenly or over time. Contact your doctor for professional help when unexpected shortness of breath persists or occurs even when you are resting.