Shortness of Breath Causes, Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment


Dyspnea, often known as shortness of breath, is the sensation that your lungs are not getting enough air. You can have chest pain, gasp for oxygen, or have to fight harder to breathe. The most frequent causes of dyspnea are heart and lung diseases.

Dyspnea, which is pronounced "DISP-nee-uh," is the term used by medical professionals to describe feeling out of breath. You could describe it as having an "air hunger," feeling tight in your chest or needing to breathe more forcefully.

Breathlessness is frequently a sign of heart and lung issues.  It may also be a sign of other conditions including asthma, allergies, or anxiety. You can feel out of breath after vigorous activity or a cold.

An hour or two after going to sleep, paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (PND) causes you to feel as though you can not breathe. Sighing dyspnea occurs when you often sigh after taking deep breaths to try to alleviate the dyspnea sensation.

Breathlessness and dyspnea are interchangeable terms. Dyspnea is the medical name for the sensation of not having enough air to breathe.

In terms of how soon they begin and how long they continue, acute and chronic dyspnea are different. They stem from several reasons.

Acute dyspnea can start suddenly and subside abruptly (hours to days). Acute dyspnea can be brought on by allergies, anxiety, exertion, and illnesses (such as the flu or the common cold). Acute dyspnea can also be brought on by more serious diseases including a heart attack, anaphylaxis, or a pulmonary embolism.

Shortness of breath that persists for a long period is called chronic dyspnea. Chronic dyspnea can be brought on by ongoing medical disorders such as asthma, heart failure, and COPD. As your muscles are attempting to obtain more oxygen, not exercising enough might also lead you to feel out of breath all the time.

Shortness of breath is a relatively frequent condition for several reasons. Yet, you can be more susceptible to experiencing shortness of breath if you have the following:

  • Anaemia (low amount of red blood cells).
  • Anxiety.
  • Breathing, heart, or lung issues.
  • A background of smoking.
  • Respiratory illness.
  • Having a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30


Breathlessness can be brought on by disease, exercise, and other medical issues. Heart and lung problems are the most typical underlying causes of dyspnea.

Your heart and lungs collaborate to eliminate carbon dioxide and deliver oxygen to your blood and tissues. You can wind up with too little oxygen or too much carbon dioxide in your blood if one or the other is not functioning properly.

Your body signals you to breathe more forcefully to inhale more oxygen or exhale more carbon dioxide when this occurs. This can also occur if you engage in vigorous exercise or are at a high altitude, both of which increase your body's requirement for oxygen.

Also, your brain may detect that your lungs are not working properly. You can get tightness in your chest or the sensation that you are breathing more laboriously as a result of this. Reasons for this include:

  • Discomfort in the lungs.
  • Restriction in the motion of your lungs when breathing.
  • Having trouble getting air into your lungs (from blocked or narrow airways).

Breathing difficulties can result from heart or lung illness as well as other disorders.

How to check if you have Shortness of Breath?

  • You frequently feel out of breath
  • You experience shortness of breath that worsens with activity, especially when you lie down, and you have swollen ankles if you have been coughing for three weeks or more.
  • It is critical to get medical guidance to confirm that there is nothing severe going on. By having it examined, you are not idly wasting anyone's time.


Depending on what is causing it and how each individual feels, shortness of breath might vary. It occasionally includes other symptoms.

Dyspnea symptoms include:

  • Chest constriction.
  • Having the urge to force oneself to take deep breaths.
  • Trying really hard to take a good breath.
  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing (palpitations).
  • Snorting or wheezing (noisy breathing).


Shortness of breath can be avoided by:

  • Establishing and adhering to a treatment plan with your provider to handle any underlying problems. This covers the kind and timing of drugs to be taken, exercise regimens, breathing exercises, and any other therapies your doctor may have suggested.
  • Avoid breathing in substances like paint fumes and automobile exhaust that can irritate your lungs.
  • Using relaxation methods or breathing exercises.
  • Not a smoker.
  • Keeping your weight at a healthy level.
  • Avoiding outside activities when it is extremely hot, chilly, or humid. Look for air pollution (ozone) notifications if you have a lung condition (you can usually find them with the weather forecast).
  • When the air pollution is bad, stay inside.


The cause of shortness of breath will determine how you should handle it. For your symptoms to get better, you will need to treat any underlying medical conditions that you may have.

The following therapies can help with breathing:

Exercise. Your heart and lungs will work less hard if you exercise often.

Ways for relaxation. You can practice breathing exercises and relaxation techniques with the help of your healthcare practitioner. These can aid in the treatment of anxiety and dyspnea brought on by underlying breathing issues.

Medication. For asthma and COPD, bronchodilators, which are inhaled medications, are administered to relax your airways. Breathlessness can be helped by pain or anxiety medications.

Oxygen treatment. If your blood oxygen level is too low, your healthcare practitioner will recommend more oxygen. It is sent via your nose with a mask or tube. Most individuals occasionally have trouble breathing. The majority of the time, dyspnea is treatable, but if you have an underlying illness, it may recur.

Complications of Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath on its own is often not harmful, but occasionally it can be an indication of a disease that might be fatal. In the event that you have:

  • Sudden breathing difficulties.
  • Severe difficulty breathing (unable to catch your breath).
  • Breathlessness following a 30-minute nap.
  • Blue nails, lips, or skin (cyanosis).
  • Chest discomfort or weight.
  • Rapid or erratic pulse (heart palpitations).
  • Very high.
  • Wheezing or stridor, a high-pitched sound made during breathing.


For further information please access the following resources:

Emergency : +91 89686 77907

Front Desk : +91 98018 79584

Page last reviewed: Apr 25, 2023

Next review due: Apr 25, 2025

Call us

Emergency : +91 89686 77907

Front Desk : +91 98018 79584

Follow us