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Shortness of Breath: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Shortness of Breath: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

by Zahra Ijaz · August 19, 2021

Do you experience shortness of breath after any strenuous activity?
Shortness of breath or dyspnea is relatively common and often can be stressful and uncomfortable.
However, it is important to note that it can be due to underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease.
Thus, you should seek medical attention in such cases.
Keep on reading to learn more about it.


Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath, breathlessness, or dyspnea can range from mild to severe in many individuals.

It occurs when you experience difficulty inhaling enough air to breathe. It is important to note that it can be a symptom of medical conditions often heart or lung diseases.

Let’s learn more about it.

shortness of breath

Although shortness of breath is relatively common, you may also experience temporary dyspnea after an intense workout.

Moreover, extreme temperatures, obesity, and even walking or high altitudes can cause dyspnea.

However, f it occurs without any reason like a medical condition or a physical activity, then you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

risk factors

Risk Factors for Dyspnea

It is important to note that shortness of breath is a common symptom during intense exercise or exertion.

However, it occurs while you are not performing any physical activity, or during unexpected situations, it can be a symptom of a serious medical condition.

If you suffer from dyspnea, you may have the following health conditions:

Heart disease, respiratory infection or pneumonia, cancer, especially lung cancer or Asthma.
It can also be due to allergies, reflux, emphysema or chronic bronchitis, or obesity.

Let’s learn about the causes and symptoms of dyspnea.


Causes and Symptoms

It is important to understand that when you perform a physical activity or exert your body, you experience shortness of breath.

However, if it occurs suddenly, then it means you need emergency treatment. Moreover, one of the most common causes of shortness of breath is overweight or obesity.

Causes of shortness of breath

Causes of Shortness of Breath

It is often observed that if you smoke, have allergies, or are allergic to pollutants in the air, experience shortness of breath.

Moreover, extreme temperatures, high-intensity workouts, and anxiety can also cause it.


Now let’s learn about the underlying medical conditions that can cause it.

Underlying Medical Conditions causing Shortness of Breath

If you experience shortness of breath or dyspnea on regular basis, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Thus, it is often due to lung or heart disease.

Your heart and lungs perform the function of carrying oxygen around your body and get rid of carbon dioxide.

Because of this process, certain conditions can affect how they both function and affects your breathing.

Underlying medical conditions that can cause dyspnea are anemia, asthma, or lung cancer.

underlying medical conditions

Moreover, abnormal heart function, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and certain lung diseases like tuberculosis or pleurisy can cause it.

However, there are some acute and sudden causes and need immediate medical attention.

These are severe allergic reactions, heart attack, pneumonia, or carbon monoxide poisoning.

It can also be due to choking, an enlarged heart, a blood clot in the lungs, or a foreign object in your lungs, according to Healthline media.

Symptoms of Shortness of Breath

One of the major symptoms of shortness of breath is difficulty inhaling.

It may last for a minute or two after a stressful workout. Moreover, it could be due to an underlying medical condition.

You may also experience sensations of not getting enough oxygen or air into your lungs, however, you may feel suffocating in serious conditions.

In certain cases, bouts of dyspnea can bring on a feeling of tightness of the chest as well.

It can be due to high intensity or strenuous exercises. However, you should seek a medical condition in case of the following signs and symptoms:

You experience breathlessness after an activity that you would normally handle without a problem, may experience it without any explanation, or experience it sooner than you used to be after physical activity.

Identify and Reducing Triggers of Shortness of Breath

There are certain lifestyle changes you can make to avoid triggers and ease the symptoms of dyspnea, however, it depends on what is causing it.

These are to lose weight, exercise, and quit smoking.

Also, you should avoid exercising in extreme or hor weather, avoid allergens, or pollutants and stick to the treatment plans for the underlying medical condition.


Treatment Options

Treatment options depend on the underlying medical condition’s treatment and certain home remedies that include relaxing activities to reduce the triggers.

In this section, we will also discuss certain home remedies, however, keep in mind that you will have to follow the treatment plan in case of underlying medical conditions.

Let’s discuss them in detail in the following section.

treatment of shortness of breath

The treatment option is to get treatment for an underlying medical condition that is causing shortness of breath. It means making certain changes to treating this condition.

Moreover, if you suffer from any medical condition and are unaware of it, then you should seek medical attention.

Treatment for Shortness of Breath

Treatment of shortness of breath includes the following options.

Diet and Exercise
A poor fitness level, being obese or overweight are common causes of dyspnea,

Thus, eating healthy, and reducing those extra kilos can help and is an effective one.

However, if you have an underlying medical condition, then you should consult your doctor and discuss how to begin a safe regime of exercise.

Cardiac Rehabilitation
Most often, if you have heart disease, you would consult a cardiologist.

Thus, if you suffer from heart failure, your heart is too weak to pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the requirements of your body.

Moreover, other symptoms of dyspnea id heart failure, thus, cardiac rehabilitation can help manage it and other conditions.

However, in severe cases, you may need an artificial pump to take over when you have a weak heart.

pulmonary rehabilitation

Pulmonary Rehabilitation
COPD and other pulmonary problems need the care of a pulmonologist, thus, if you need supplemental oxygen if you feel out of breath.

Another option is pulmonary rehabilitation and contains exercises under supervision that helps to overcome lung diseases.

COVID-10 Vaccination
One of the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus in your body is shortness of breath.

Thus, to protect yourself from this virus, you should get its vaccine as soon as possible.

Home Remedies for Common Causes of Dyspnea

After understanding the warning signs and reasons for shortness of breath, you can take steps to ease it with the help of some home remedies.

However, it is important to understand that for any medical condition, you should consult your doctor and get treatment.

The following exercises can help ease the symptoms of breathlessness at home:

  • Deep Breathing
  • Pursed Lip Breathing
  • Finding a Comfortable Position
  • Drinking Cofee

Let’s discuss these remedies as follows:

Deep Breathing Exercise

To help manage dyspnea, deep breathing exercises can help ease the symptoms.

For this exercise, lie down and place your hands on the abdomen. breath in through your lungs, expanding the abdomen and letting your lungs fill in the air.

Hold your breath for some seconds and breath out slowly, emptying your lungs.

home remedies

You can do this exercise multiple times a day or as often as you experience dyspnea.

Moreover, you can also try diaphragmatic breathing.

It is important to note that if you do not perform this exercise properly, then it can cause more harm than benefit.

According to research, when you do not perform breathing exercises properly, then they can cause severe chronic respiratory conditions.

It can also lead to hyperinflation which prevents efficient airflow.

Other risks are reduction in strength of diaphragm and increase in shortness of breath.

Learn more about bad breath here.

Pursed Lip Breathing

This is another breathing exercise and can help relieve shortness of breath.

It works by slowing the pace of your breathing and is particularly useful if you suffer from anxiety.
You can follow the steps at home as:

Sit straight up with relaxed shoulders, press your lips together keeping a small gap between them.

Inhale through your nose for a couple of seconds, gently exhale through your pursed lips for a count of four, and repeat this a few times.

sitting straight

You can repeat this exercise throughout the day or when you feel short of breath.

Finding a Comfortable Position

In this, you will a standing or laying position to relax and catch your breath.

If dyspnea is due to shortness of breath, then this one is very beneficial for you.

The following positions will help relieve the airway and improve your breathing:

  • Leaning against the wall
  • sitting forward in a chair
  • standing with your hands on the table
  • lying down with your head and knees supported by pillows

Drinking Coffee

Drinking coffee especially black coffee can help relieve the symptoms and is because the caffeine helps to reduce the tightness in your airways.

drinking coffee

According to a review from 2021, caffeine affects and improves the way your airways function, especially in individuals suffering from asthma.

However, it is important to note that drinking too much coffee can increase your heart rate, therefore you should watch your intake.

Other Remedies

Other home remedies are inhaling steam, eating ginger, and using a fan.

Inhaling steam can help keep the nasal passage clean and you can effectively try it at home.

Fill a bowl with hot water and add a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil.

By positioning yourself over the bowl and inhaling the steam, it can help open the airways.

Moreover, eating fresh ginger can help reduce dyspnea which is due to respiratory infection.

According to studies, ginger is an effective remedy for fighting a respiratory syncytial virus that causes respiratory infections.

Another study suggests that using a handheld fan can help to reduce the feelings of breathlessness.

When You Should Visit a Doctor?

You need a proper diagnosis if you experience shortness of breath regularly.

However, if your doctor has already made a diagnosis, then you can try some home remedies.

Dyspnea can be very distressing especially if it occurs for the first time, however, seek medical attention or talk to your doctor immediately.

diagnosing shortness of breath

In some cases, it can be due to an underlying medical condition, therefore, you should consult your doctor if you experience unexplained symptoms.

Preventing Dyspnea

If you want to prevent dyspnea, then you should take preventive steps to avoid it and manage its causes.

The most common risk factor is smoking.

Try to avoid or quit smoking and for this, you can join a cessation program or consult a specialist to improve your heart and lungs functioning.

Moreover, air pollution and airborne chemicals can also cause breathing issues.

Consider wearing a mask to filter out irritants if you are working in such an environment.

Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight can also help avoid related health conditions.

Losing weight and consulting a doctor or nutritionist can set your meal plans and change your lifestyle.

Learn more about nose bleeds here.

The Take-Away

Shortness of breath can be due to different factors, like panic attacks, lung conditions, heart diseases causing symptoms like difficulty breathing, and chest pain, however, if you have unexplained symptoms then you should seek medical attention or visit medical emergency as it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Getting proper treatment, giving additional information to your doctor, and avoiding triggers can help prevent it. Thus, make sure to follow your doctor’s guidance, follow up appointments and make sure to have certain lifestyle changes to help you breathe easier.

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