Shortness of breath, known as “Dyspnea” (pronounced disp-nee-ah) is a debilitating symptom that is the experience of unpleasant or uncomfortable respiratory sensations. It is a common symptom of many medical disorders, particularly those involving the cardiac and respiratory systems. Shortness of breath on exertion is the most common complaint for people with respiratory impairment. Importantly, shortness of breath is a symptom experienced by an individual. It is not a noticeable or measurable sign. Although the exact mechanisms that lead to shortness of breath are not fully understood, some general details have been found. Common causes of shortness of breath include: Asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), pneumonia, heart failure, coronary artery disease, obesity, deconditioning and pregnancy. Some less common causes of shortness of breath include: Pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary embolism, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, pleural effusion, pulmonary hypertension.
Your MLA physician will approach your shortness of breath by taking a careful history, performing a physical examination as well as reviewing or ordering a chest x-ray, and any other information that you bring to the office visit. Based on these findings he may order additional studies such as pulmonary function tests, or a cardiac evaluation, and may prescribe appropriate medications for your condition.