Being Short of Breath

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April 14, 2012
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Being short of breath or having dyspnea is a condition where a person has the perception of not being able to have enough air or having difficulty breathing. It can be a very distressing symptom to have and can be associated with cough, fever and pain in the chest. The lungs, the heart and the circulation can be at fault.

Breathlessness can be associated with low blood oxygen levels although the oxygen levels can be normal while the patient experiences the sensation of being low on oxygen. There are many causes of shortness of breath, including emphysema, pneumonia, heart failure, dementia, asthma, Multiple Sclerosis and AIDS. Cancer patients often experience shortness of breath. This can be true even if the cancer does not originate in the lungs.

Being short of breath can be a frightening experience for those who suffer from it. If you experience shortness of breath, you should probably see a doctor to determine the cause of the condition and to make sure there isn’t something that can be done to help the problem. It is a problem that is worse when you exert yourself in most cases and doctors use a grading system to determine the severity of the condition. Grade I is the least severe and grade IV is the most severe and is associated with shortness of breath even when you are at rest.

There is a condition where you only are short of breath when lying down. This is caused orthopnea and is usually the result of heart problems causing shortness of breath. Shortness of breath can also be caused by deconditioning of the cardiovascular system so the patient is short of breath with even the smallest amount of exercise.

There are four main things that can lead to shortness of breath. They include having increased levels of carbon dioxide in the system, decrease oxygen levels, the decrease in the ability of the lung to expand and increased workload of breathing. There can be respiratory causes, such as obstruction of the air passages in asthma or nasal airway blockage. COPD, emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia, pulmonary edema, restriction in the airway or a pulmonary embolism are other common causes of feeling short of breath.

There are several cardiac causes of breathlessness. These include mitral valve prolapse, cardiomyopathy, heart failure and pericarditis. These usually cause an accumulation of fluid in the lungs and a lesser area for oxygen to get into the lungs. The heart can’t pump enough oxygen through the lungs so you get less oxygen in the rest of the body and feel short of breath.

Cancer of the lungs can cause excessive shortness of breath. This is because it can cause pleural effusion or decreased oxygenation of the lungs because the cancer can cause bronchial blockages. In addition to shortness of breath, you often have bloody sputum and a cough.