Have you ever had the sensation that you could not breathe in enough air, you may have experienced a condition recognized medically as dyspnea. Shortness of breath can be an indication of health issues, often linked to heart or lung disease. However, you can also experience temporary dyspnea after an intense workout.
The primary symptom of dyspnea is heavy breathing. It may last for a minute or two after vigorous activity. Alternatively, it may be a chronic issue. You may have the feeling of just not getting quite enough air into your lungs all the time. In severe cases, you may feel as though you are suffocating. Periods of dyspnea may also bring on the feeling contraction within your chest.
Dyspnea that happens after demanding exercise be expected. However, explore medical attention if any of the following occurs:
You are short of breath faster than you used to be after physical activity.
You are breathless after activity that you previously were able to handle with ease.
You start to encounter dyspnea without any cause.
If you have ever run a race or swam several laps, you have likely had to take a few minutes to catch your breath. You may have difficulty breathing in enough oxygen to meet your body’s increased demand. If you are healthy, your breathing will ease soon. You will frequently be breathing within a few minutes.
Exercise is normally a trigger for short-term dyspnea. If you are at a raised elevation and you are not used to producing less oxygen available, you may also undergo temporary dyspnea. At notably high elevations, such as mountaintops, the “thinner” air can be a real health risk. Be sure to discuss with a climbing specialist before making an aggressive high-elevation trek.
Dyspnea produced by medical conditions includes a wide variety of health concerns. While they should all be assessed by a physician, conditions that bring on immediate breathlessness should be treated as urgent. These include:
- heart failure
- low blood pressure
- pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs)
- carbon monoxide poisoning
- stress or anxiety
You may also experience sudden dyspnea if a piece of food or some other object blocks your airway. An injury that harms a lung or causes a rapid loss of blood will also make breathing more difficult.
When shortness of breath is not a sudden emergency but is instead a problem that lingers for at least four weeks, it is considered chronic. Examples of chronic dyspnea cause include:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which covers chronic
- bronchitis and emphysema
- interstitial lung disease (scarring of lung tissue)
- poor physical conditioning
- heart disease
- Asthma can be both a short-term emergency and a chronic problem, depending on the characteristics of your ailment and the availability of an inhaler to treat a sudden attack. If you have asthma, talk with your doctor about how to respond to symptoms and what you can do to prevent breathing problems.
Managing dyspnea usually means treating its underlying cause.
Diet and exercise
If obesity and a poor fitness level are the cause of dyspnea you may be experiencing, eat healthier meals and exercise frequently. If it has been a prolonged time or you have a medical condition that restricts your activity level, speak with your doctor about how to start a safe exercise routine.
COPD and other lung difficulties demand the care of a pulmonologist, a physician who concentrates on the health of your lungs and respiratory system. You may require supplemental oxygen in a transportable tank to help keep you from feeling out of breath. Pulmonary rehabilitation may also be necessary. This is a program of administered exercise and education about breathing methods to help you overcome lung disease.
Heart-related causes are treated by a cardiologist, a physician specializing in heart disorders. If you have heart failure, it suggests your heart is too weak to pump enough oxygenated blood to meet your body’s needs. Dyspnea is one of the numerous symptoms of heart failure. Cardiac rehabilitation can assist you to handle heart failure and other heart-related conditions. In severe cases of heart failure, an artificial pump may be needed to take over the blood pumping duties of a weakened heart.
Preventing dyspnea means bypassing or managing its many possible causes. The most prominent risk factor for shortness of breath is smoking. If you smoke, seek out a smoking cessation specialist or program in your area. There are many effective solutions and therapies now that can help you quit. It is never too late. Your lung and heart health will start to change within hours of having your last cigarette.
Air contamination and airborne chemicals can also lead to breathing difficulties. So if you work in conditions with poor air quality, think about using a mask to filter out lung irritants, and make sure your workplace is well-ventilated.
Keeping a healthy weight can help you avoid some health problems. If you need assistance losing weight, you should talk with your physician about using a nutritionist or dietitian in your area to aid you in planning meals, or adjusting your eating choices.
When to see a doctor
Since unexplained dyspnea can be a symptom of a severe medical condition, it is something you should discuss with a physician. If you abruptly have other symptoms, such as lightheadedness or chest pain, you should ask for emergency care.
If your shortness of breath deteriorates when you are lying down, that is a sign of heart failure. You should see a specialist soon for a diagnosis.
If brevity of breath is followed by coughing, it may be a sign of COPD or pneumonia. Chills, fever, and coughing that generates phlegm are also symptoms of pneumonia. Don’t delay to see a doctor. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It can be severe, particularly in older adults, and can lead to hospitalization and even death if not treated properly.
What is the Outlook
Since dyspnea is a symptom, not a condition, your outlook will be based on how well you can control or avoid its causes. Conditions such as COPD and heart failure are chronic, suggesting you will have them for life. However, improvements in treatment are assisting people to live longer and with a higher quality of life, even with these conditions. The key is to follow your doctor’s opinion about treatment, routine checkups, and lifestyle modifications that will help you breathe more comfortable for an extended time.