What is shortness of breath?
Shortness of breath is the feeling that you can’t get enough air no matter how hard you try. The medical term for shortness of breath is dyspnea. The experience can be incredibly frightening, and it’s sometimes described as a feeling of suffocation, an intense tightening in your chest, or air hunger.
Occasional shortness of breath is normal when there is a clear cause. For example, extremely hot or cold temperatures, strenuous exercise, significant obesity, and being at high altitude can all cause a temporary shortness of breath.
When you experience those sensations for no reason, however, shortness of breath can indicate a serious medical attention.
What could shortness of breath indicate?
Shortness of breath can be a sign of numerous health issues, which is why it’s so important to seek medical care.
This means your heart is weak. You might also notice swelling in various parts of your body or a sensation of being overly tired. At first, shortness of breath may happen only when you exert yourself, but it will eventually occur even when you’re sitting or reclined.
This is a rapid heart rate, and it can indicate that the electrical signals in your heart aren’t firing at the proper rate.
This happens when your heart muscle isn’t able to pump strongly enough to move blood throughout your body. You might also feel tired, dizzy or have a cough.
This condition involves extra fluid in your lungs, but it usually occurs due to heart problems. When your heart can’t pump out oxygenated blood fast enough, pressure pushes fluid into the air sacs in your lungs.
If you experience shortness of breath without a clear cause, schedule a diagnostic exam as soon as possible.
What tools are used to diagnose shortness of breath?
The diagnostic process begins with a thorough discussion of your personal and family health history. You’ll also share the details of any recent symptoms as well as your overall lifestyle.
Next comes a physical exam to gather basic information about your health and to look for signs of medical distress. You may need to participate in exercise tests that measure your heart rate and breathing under exertion.
Blood testing can provide additional insight into your health. Another testing option is an electrocardiogram, which records your heart’s electrical activity and rhythms. An echocardiogram uses ultrasound waves to create a real-time image of your heart and its valves.
Ambulatory cardiac monitoring, also called a Holter monitor, records your heart rate and rhythm around the clock as you wear it during your normal daily routines. In some cases, X-rays or other imaging tools gather information about your lung function.
Be sure to seek medical attention if you notice changes in your breathing function, as this could be a sign of a serious medical problem. Schedule an appointment today by calling the office or using the easy online booking function.