Shortness of breath - breathing difficulty

Wondering If You Have Shortness of Breath? Here’s All You Need to Know

29 Apr 2021

One of the most terrifying feelings you can have is not being able to breathe. It can cause you to go from being calm to full-blown panic in seconds. It’s understandable, though, since it is usually a sign that something is wrong. You may need to make your way to our ER for shortness of breath.

Knowing when to go to the ER for breathing problems can be the difference between life and death. This is why you need to learn more about the shortness of breath to make informed decisions in case it happens to you or a loved one. At our emergency room in Houston, you can get the help you need during such crucial and time-sensitive moments.

What Is Shortness of Breath?

Just as the name suggests, shortness of breath is a condition where you cannot get enough air in your lungs. You will feel winded, and you might feel as though you are climbing several flights of stairs or running a sprint.

The condition is referred to as dyspnea by medical professionals. Dyspnea is a common symptom of infection, allergy, injury, inflammation, and certain metabolic disorders. As a response to these conditions, your brain may prompt the lungs to increase the breathing frequency to restore your breathing.

Shortness of breath may be abrupt and happen within seconds, or it can be something that occurs over days, weeks, or even months.

What Causes Shortness of Breath?

As mentioned earlier, shortness of breath is a symptom that is linked to several conditions. Shortness of breath at times may result from conditions affecting your lungs such as COVID-19, pneumonia, COPD, tuberculosis, etc. Or it can be an issue with the pulmonary system, meaning that you are suffering from pulmonary edema, pulmonary embolism, etc.

You can sometimes experience shortness of breath because of less severe issues such as intense exercise, pregnancy, or being out of shape.

Inflammation to the bronchial tubes and lungs can cause shortness of breath. Also, injury to the lungs and respiratory tract because of smoking, inhaling toxins, or even having a collapsed lung can cause dyspnea. Allergic reactions can instigate shortness of breath, as is the case with allergic asthma.

We cannot forget that numerous heart conditions will cause low oxygen levels and result in shortness of breath.

Besides the above, the following can also cause shortness of breath:

  • Obesity
  • Lung cancer
  • Pleurisy
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Anemia
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Broken ribs
  • Sudden blood loss
  • Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction)
  • Anxiety disorders

Dyspnea Symptoms

If you have dyspnea, you might experience the following symptoms:

  • Inability to take deep breaths
  • Out of breath
  • Hungry for air
  • Tightness in your chest
  • Suffocation

Dyspnea can either be acute (sudden) or long-lasting (chronic). With acute shortness of breath, it may begin within a few minutes or hours. At times, it is accompanied by other symptoms such as a rash, fever, or cough.

On the other hand, chronic dyspnea may make you feel out of breath when carrying out your daily tasks, such as standing up or walking from your room to another room.

In certain cases, there are individuals whose symptoms may worsen or become better when they change their body positions. Some people who have specific types of heart disease or lung disease may complain that their symptoms have become worse when they lie down flat.

How Is Dyspnea Diagnosed?

When you notice that you have shortness of breath, you need to keep track of your symptoms so that our doctor in our emergency room in Houston can narrow down the cause of the condition.

During your visit, our doctor will listen and examine your chest to ascertain whether you have dyspnea. A lung function test may be carried out to gauge your lung capacity.

We will also carry out the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Chest X-ray or CT scan

How Is Shortness of Breath Treated?

The treatment of dyspnea is dependent on the cause. For instance, if anxiety disorders cause dyspnea, breathing and relaxation methods can work. On the other hand, if it is an infection or a blood clot, our doctor may prescribe certain drugs.

The Bottom Line

Dyspnea can be a sign of a life-threatening condition. Therefore, if you face this condition, contact Memorial Village ER promptly for shortness of breath treatment.

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