Shortness of Breath
Most of us may experience shortness of breath after exertion, including from an exercise routine or even walking up a flight of stairs. But for those suffering from heart or lung disease or other conditions, shortness of breath can range from breathing somewhat normally and feeling out of breath, to a feeling of simply not getting enough air with forceful heaving with wheezing. There are many scenarios that cause shortness of breath symptoms, running the gamut from lung ailments and musculoskeletal aches in the chest and back, to cardiac conditions including heart attack, angina and congestive heart failure.
People complaining of shortness of breath should be dealt with seriously, and a sudden onset of the condition could mean an underlying emergency medical situation. Typical symptoms may include fast breathing, speaking only in a few words or short sentences, feeling winded or out of breath, breathing through pursed lips, becoming weak and getting confused. Such patients may rest their hands on their knees to help breath deeper. In severe cases, they may show signs of confusion, weakness and dizziness and may begin to turn blue because of lack of oxygen. A person showing extreme symptoms should call 911 or be rushed to the ER.
Shortness of breath can be caused by such lung ailments as asthma, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism or blood clot, collapsed lung, bronchitis, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Other conditions might include carbon monoxide poisoning, anemia, hyperventilation or allergic reactions.
When it comes to cardiac conditions, shortness of breath can be a key symptom in diagnosing underlying heart disease – and even a heart attack. In addition to breathlessness, typical heart attack symptoms also include crushing or tight chest pain, nausea, sweating, lightheadedness and pain radiating into the left arm, neck and shoulders. If these symptoms persist, call 911. Another serious condition that can cause shortness of breath is congestive heart failure, which often results in a fluid buildup in the lungs. Symptoms include breathlessness after exertion and with lying flat and wheezing.
Make an appointment with an MDCA cardiologist if you feel your shortness of breath may be related to a heart condition, or call 911 in an emergency as outlined above.