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Common Causes of Shortness of Breath


GPs can assess symptoms by phone or home and refer patients to a specialist hospital if required. While brief episodes of breathlessness can be self-limiting, long-term breathing problems may signify a more serious health condition. These include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and obesity. Breathlessness is also sometimes triggered by exercise.


Dyspnea, also known as “air hunger,” is a symptom that affects your ability to catch your breath. Even though this symptom is subjective, it is essential to seek medical attention if you’re experiencing it. In addition, this condition often causes tightness in the chest.

A physician can diagnose dyspnea by performing a thorough physical exam and a complete history of symptoms. They can also use diagnostic tests, such as chest X-rays, computed tomography (CT) images, or electrocardiograms, to look for heart problems.


COVID-19 is a virus that can cause shortness of breath in adults. The virus affects the respiratory system by inflaming the air sacs. This condition can lead to pneumonia. Those with COVID-19 may also experience vocal cord dysfunction. Fortunately, there are treatments for COVID-19 shortness of breath.

Most COVID-19 cases can be treated without immediate hospitalization. However, in many cases, patients with COVID-19 will be told to monitor their symptoms at home and to seek medical attention only if the shortness of breath persists or worsens. Pulse oximeters, which measure the amount of oxygen in the blood, can help determine if COVID-19 is the cause of the shortness of breath. These devices can be purchased online or in a health store, but they can take several days to arrive.


Treatment for COPD shortness of breath can vary depending on the disease’s severity. Exercise is an integral part of treatment; a regular exercise program may help with symptoms and exercise tolerance. Supplemental oxygen can also help with symptoms and may improve your body’s ability to function. Surgery is also an option for severe cases.

Oxygen saturation levels vary from person to person, and in healthy individuals, they are between 95 and 100%. In COPD, these levels can drop below 90 percent. This can be dangerous, as the blood’s oxygen level isn’t adequately supplied to the tissues. Exercise and supplemental oxygen can help with oxygen saturation levels.


A person with emphysema experiences shortness of breath and cough that may not produce mucus. They may also wheeze. Shortness of breath usually develops during strenuous activity and may worsen with rest. Other symptoms include blue lips and fingernails and loss of appetite.

Emphysema is a progressive lung disease affecting millions of air sacs. In time, these sacs become damaged and rupture, forming large air spaces. These spaces fill with old air and prevent oxygen-rich air from entering the lungs. In severe cases, the symptoms can interfere with daily tasks and prevent a person from achieving normal lung function.

Pulmonary embolism

If you have shortness of breath and a lump in your lung, it may be a pulmonary embolism. This condition occurs when the clotting factors in the blood are elevated. This can be caused by some types of cancer, birth control pills, or some types of hereditary conditions. A CT or V/Q lung scan can be performed to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment for this condition involves drugs that thin the blood and the placement of a filter in the lung. The goal of treatment is to prevent the clot from traveling further into the lungs or causing more problems.

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism vary, depending on the size and location of the clot. If you experience shortness of breath, you should see your physician immediately. If the shortness of breath lasts longer than four hours, you should go to the hospital immediately. The embolism may not be a life-threatening condition, but it can lead to other complications. Luckily, if diagnosed early, pulmonary embolism can be treated.

The medication causes shortness of breath.

You should discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider if you suffer from shortness of breath due to medication. Your doctor may prescribe bronchodilators or steroids to relieve your symptoms. They can be taken alone or with other medicines. Other treatment options include oxygen therapy, an inhaled gas used to help patients breathe better while at rest. Some patients need oxygen during the night, while others only need it during physical activity.

Your doctor may perform tests to determine whether your shortness of breath is related to a heart or lung condition. Your physician will evaluate your heart’s pumping capacity and the blood vessels that feed your heart. They may also conduct a lung function test or a CT scan. If the problem persists or worsens, your doctor may prescribe additional tests, such as an echocardiogram.