This is a feeling of insufficient air in the lung, unable to take deep breath or having breath stuck in the chest. Some describe it as chest tightness or suffocation. This feeling may be due to serious underlying conditions and should not be ignored.
Less common causes:
- Heart conditions (heart failure, valvular disease, angina, arrthymia)
- Physical deconditioning
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Pulmonary embolism
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Pleural effusion
- Interstitial lung disease
History is of particular importance when determining the cause. The onset, character, duration, periodicity and severity of the symptoms are all important factors.
Physical examination may also provide important clues.
- Tachycardia (rapid pulse) may accompany anaemia, heart failure, and pulmonary embolism.
- Distention of the jugular veins and peripheral oedema may be consistent with heart failure.
- Cardiac murmurs may suggest underlying valvular disorders.
- Decreased breath sounds and wheezing may indicate COPD.
- Pulse oximetry will give an idea of the oxygen saturation.
- Neurological examination to exclude muscle weakness.
Investigations may include the following:
- Chest X-ray
- CT Scan thorax
- Full blood count
- Metabolic Panels
- Spirometry tests and other lung function tests
- Echocardiogram (ultrasound of heart to assess the valves and function)
- Treadmill test (Exercise stress test that allows us to assess the response of your heart to the increased workload and demand for blood during exercise)
Treatment depends on the identified cause.
Worried about Shortness of Breath?