The term “dyspnea” simply means shortness of breath or difficult/uncomfortable breathing. Dyspnea can occur just once, many times, or it can become constant.
In healthy people, dyspnea may be caused by very hard exercise, high altitude, or extreme temperatures. If dyspnea is not explained by one of these factors, it is most likely a sign of another medical problem. Potential causes of dyspnea include:
- Lung conditions: asthma, carbon monoxide poisoning, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, collapsed lung, upper airway obstruction, croup, lung cancer, pleurisy, pulmonary edema, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, sarcoidosis, or tuberculosis
- Heart conditions: cardiac tamponade, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, heart arrhythmias, heart failure, pericarditis
- Other conditions: low blood pressure, anemia, broken ribs, choking, epiglottitis, uncontrolled diabetes, generalized anxiety disorder, Guillain-Barre syndrome, or myasthenia gravis
When dyspnea recurs often (is chronic), it is most likely due to:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- Heart dysfunction
- Interstitial lung disease
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