Shortness of Breath

At Lung Disease Center of Central Pennsylvania, we aim to evaluate individuals and determine exactly what is behind their symptoms. Don’t wait until it is too late to make a difference. Call 814-946-2845 or book an appointment online!
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Leaders in Providing Comprehensive Pulmonary Care and Sleep Medicine Services, All Under One Roof, for patients in and around Altoona, PA

Breathing is a very unconscious activity - in fact, we do it automatically at least 20,000 times a day. Its sole purpose is to supply the body with oxygen and rid it of carbon dioxide. However, if anything interferes with that exchange of gasses - causing a deficit of oxygen or a surplus of carbon dioxide - the breathing rate will automatically increase to compensate. Patients then perceive that as shortness of breath or, in medical terms, dyspnea. Anything that increases the mechanical effort of breathing causes shortness of breath. A multitude of heart and lung diseases can cause profound dyspnea. And one common cause of dyspnea, "sighing respirations”, is even caused by anxiety. 

At the Lung Disease Center of Central Pennsylvania, we aim to evaluate individuals and determine exactly what is behind their symptoms. Each patient is assigned to a team whose #1 goal is to make sure each patient receives the best care and service they need. We also offer a majority of testing in office to alleviate the need to go elsewhere for testing. Don’t wait until it is too late to make a difference. Call 814-946-2845 or book an appointment online!

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What are the Most Common Causes of Shortness of Breath?

Almost everyone experiences shortness of breath, the feeling of not getting enough air, at some point. An occasional bout of breathlessness can be a normal reaction to strenuous exercise or emotional distress. Obesity is a common cause of breathing difficulty even during mild exertion, because the lungs and heart are pulling with the extra weight. Fortunately, losing weight may often address this stress and make it easier for patients to breathe.

However, some medical disorders commonly cause chronic shortness of breath that does not go away on its own. These disorders include:

  • Asthma. Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult due to inflammation.
  • Anemia. Some anemic patients lack enough red blood cells to efficiently carry oxygen throughout their body.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases that interfere with a patient’s ability to breathe.
  • Pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. It’s usually accompanied by fever, chills, lower-than-normal body temperature, and muscle aches.
  • Pulmonary Embolism. Pulmonary embolisms occur when a clump of material, most often a blood clot, gets wedged into an artery in a patient’s lungs.This is considered a medical emergency.
  • Heart Failure. Heart attacks and other cardiac-emergencies typically present with a gradual shortness of breath, this is considered a medical emergency.

 

What Should Patients Do when They Experience Shortness of Breath?

Shortness of breath is a symptom to take seriously. If you experience any of these symptoms, report them to your doctor immediately:

  • Sudden Breathlessness
  • Chest pain or chest pressure
  • Lightheadedness

 

What are the Treatment Options for Shortness of Breath?

There are a number of treatments that can address and minimize breathlessness. The most important step is to stop smoking. 

Additionally treatments include:

  • Bronchodilator medicines. These relaxes the muscles around the airways. They are typically prescribed for the relief of bronchospasm in patients with reversible obstructive airways disease, as well as patients dealing with asthma.
  • Anti-inflammatories (corticosteroids). These are used to soothe and ultimately heal the delicate lining layer of the air passageways, making them more resistant to obstruction.
  • Oxygen therapy. Supplemental oxygen can benefit a patient whose lung function is severely impaired and cannot absorb enough oxygen from the air.

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