SHORTNESS OF BREATH
Shortness of breath is a breathing problem in which there is an uneasy feeling of breathing which one feels in doing things that is usually easy and will not cause breathing problem. Shortness of breath is also called “dyspnea” in medical terms. Patients describe shortness of breath as “hungry for air,” “cannot breathe deeply enough” or “chest tightness”.
CAUSES OF SHORTNESS OF BREATH
problem, which develops over minutes or hours. Breathing problem is severe and occurs even at resting state.
Most common causes of acute shortness of breath are:
- Infections of respiratory tract: Breathing problem due to is associated with fever, cough, sputum eg. Bronchitis or pneumonia.
- Allergy: Breathing problem due to severe allergy (anaphylaxis) associated with itching, swelling, a rash or allergic asthma associated with wheezing.
- Obstruction of Airway: Breathing problem due to blockage in the airway, due to inhalation of a foreign object, such as a peanut or partially chewed meat.
- Blockage in an artery (blood vessel) of the lungs by a blood clot called Pulmonary Embolism.
- Collapsed/rupture of lung called Pneumothorax.
- Blockage in an artery (blood vessel) of the Heart by a blood clot called Heart Attack associated with pain or heaviness in the chest.
- Heart failure which happens due to heart pumping problem.
Chronic shortness of breath: Long standing breathing problem which develops over weeks or months. Breathing problem is persistent and occurs with physical exertion and resolves when one stops the exertion and at rest.
Most common causes of chronic shortness of breath are:
- Asthma, Respiratory problem caused due to allergy of the airways.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Respiratory problem caused due smoke exposure like cigarette smoke or biomass fuel burning.
- Interstitial lung disease (ILD), Respiratory problem caused due scarring of lung tissue.
- Heart problem like cardiomyopathy, dilatation or thickening of heart muscles which then affects the pumping action of blood to the rest of the body by heart.
- Deconditioning, means when you feel short of breath due to poor exercise capacity due to sedentary life style and aging and weight loss.
- Obesity can cause breathing problem as heavy weight makes the chest and abdomen movement difficult.
- Pulmonary hypertension, when the blood pressure in the arteries to your lungs gets high.
- Anaemia: lack of haemoglobin in blood.
- Anxiety: when the breathing problem is unexplained with any of the above cause, this unexplained shortness of breath is usually due to anxiety and is also known as psychogenic breathlessness or dysfunctional breathing.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO SEE A DOCTOR FOR SHORTNESS OF BREATH?
It is best to see a specialist doctor for respiratory problem as soon as you develop shortness of breath. It’s more important to find best breathing problem doctor near you if your breathing problem occurs even when you do minimal activity or if you are short of breath even at rest. If you have severe shortness of breath or also have chest pain or nausea, you should search/rush for emergency near me which has availability of a best breathing problem doctor. It is best not to ignore your shortness of breath problem. Please note that best doctor for respiratory problem is a pulmonologist or a cardiologist as most of the breathing problem are due to either lungs or heart respectively.
SHORTNESS OF BREATH DIAGNOSIS
Respiratory problem doctor will ask description of your breathing problem, like onset of breathlessness, duration of breathlessness, whether breathlessness is intermittent or persistent or progressive, severity/grading of breathlessness on a scale of 0-10 and lastly, he/she will ask you about any associated problems with breathlessness you may have. A good/best doctor for respiratory problem will also listening to your lungs and heart with a stethoscope and may examine for swelling in your legs.
TESTS — A shortness of breath doctor may also order one or more of the following tests:
- CBC to check for anaemia, low haemoglobin (Hb).
- Blood test called a NT-ProBNP which can indicate if you have fluid accumulation in your lungs.
- Chest X-ray to look for pneumonia or scarring/fibrosis.
- An ECG and/or ECHO to looks for a heart attack.
- A pulmonary function test (PFT) called spirometry to measure the volume of air in your lungs and how effectively you can blow air which will tell your pulmonologist doctor if you have asthma or COPD or ILD.
- Finger pulse oximetry which measures the percentage saturation of oxygen in your blood.
SHORTNESS OF BREATH TREATMENT
A best doctor for breathing problem will treat for your shortness of breath by first determining the cause of your shortness of breath and then treat the exact cause. For example, shortness of breath caused by asthma, will be treated best by a Pulmonologist with help of inhalers whereas shortness of breath caused by heart failure will be treated best by a Cardiologist with heart medications and an unexplained shortness of breath due to anxiety will be best dealt by a Psychiatrist.