Shortness Of Breath

Difficulty in breathing, also known as shortness of breath or dyspnea, could be a marker of significant cardiovascular or pulmonary disease. People usually describes a sensation of not being able to get enough air, or sometimes as a feeling of suffocation, or chest tightness. This could be exacerbated by activities such as exercise.

Although shortness of breath could be due to a variety of causes, some common cardiac conditions include possible heart failure, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, mitral regurgitation or aortic stenosis.

It is important to see a cardiologist to workup the possibility of structural heart abnormalities that might be the cause of these symptoms.

When Is Shortness of Breath a Sign of a Medical Problem?

  • If the shortness of breath is prolonged and persistent, it is likely to be related to a medical condition.
  • If it is sudden and severe in intensity, even if it is of short duration, however, it may warrant medical evaluation.

How Is Shortness of Breath Evaluated?

After obtaining a detailed history, the doctor will perform a thorough physical examination. If indicated, diagnostic testing might be considered.

The basic evaluation will include an ECG (Electrocardiogram, EKG) and/or chest x-ray. Further testing with echocardiogram will help measure and identify the strength of the heart as well as possible structural heart abnormalities that might be causing the shortness of breath. A nuclear stress test can identify the existence of a significant blockage in the arteries of the heart (coronary artery disease).

Treatment will depend on the cause of the underlying condition and is tailored to individual needs.

In order to discover more about shortness of breath and its potential causes and ramifications please view this PDF by the American Heart Association.

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