Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is a common symptom for a wide range of potentially severe health conditions, ranging from asthma to emphysema, obesity, and heart dysfunction. At CardioHealth in Jacksonville, Florida, board-certified cardiologist Ramon Castello MD, FACC, FASE specializes in diagnosing unexplained breathing difficulties and treating underlying cardiovascular causes. To learn more, call or book an appointment online today.
Although there’s no standard definition for dyspnea, most people who complain of shortness of breath either have difficulty breathing, find breathing uncomfortable, or feel as though they aren’t getting enough air.
Some people feel short of breath only when they exercise, while others feel it mostly when they’re resting or lying down.
Shortness of breath has many potential causes. Breathing difficulties may be a result of a problem in your lungs or airways, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary edema, which occurs when there’s excess fluid in your lungs.
Some of the conditions that can cause shortness of breath include:
Shortness of breath is a common warning sign for many different cardiovascular problems, including:
Most of these conditions make it harder for your heart muscle to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. When your brain, organs, and muscles don’t get enough oxygen, you may experience an ongoing sense of breathlessness.
To discover the underlying cause of an ongoing breathing difficulty, Dr. Castello performs a comprehensive physical exam, which includes asking detailed questions about your symptoms and medical history.
Besides telling Dr. Castello how long you’ve had shortness of breath, you should tell him if you make any wheezing or grunting sounds when you’re short of breath and if there’s anything that makes your breathing worse.
Dr. Castello may measure your breathing and your blood oxygen levels, and he may order an electrocardiogram (ECG) or an echocardiogram to evaluate your heart. Cardiopulmonary exercise testing may also be helpful, in some cases.
If you experience sudden or severe shortness of breath that interferes with your ability to function, call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room.
It’s especially important to seek immediate care if your shortness of breath is accompanied by chest pain, fainting, or nausea, as these may be signs that you’re having a heart attack or a pulmonary embolism.
If your shortness of breath is less severe but still concerning, make an appointment to see Dr. Castello as soon as possible.