Dyspnea (shortness of breath)

The heart and lungs provide oxygen to your body’s tissues and remove carbon dioxide. Difficulty breathing can be caused by a problem with either of these organs. Depending on the cause, you may have a sudden onset of shortness of breath or recurring episodes of shortness of breath that can become chronic

What causes shortness of breath?

Many conditions can cause shortness of breath, including the following:

  • Heart attack or heart diseases
  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Emphysema
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart failure
  • Pericarditis
  • Carbon Monoxide poisoning
  • Pneumothorax
  • Upper airway obstruction
  • Anemia
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Lung Cancer

Symptoms of shortness of breath

Breathing may become difficult, labored or uncomfortable. You may also feel as though you’re not getting enough air. Other symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest or neck pain
  • Dizziness or fainting

How is shortness of breath diagnosed?

Shortness of breath is not a disease in and of itself, so your doctor will look for an underlying lung or heart disease. Common tests for these diseases include:

How is shortness of breath treated?

Treatments for shortness of breath will vary depending on what’s causing it. If an underlying condition is causing difficulty breathing, treatment will address that problem.


Your doctor may also recommend medication, physical activity and breathing exercises to help you manage the sensation of breathlessness.