Common Causes of Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath or breathing difficulty is something that makes it feel like your chest is tight and the air is thick. In the medical field, it is referred to as dyspnea. It’s important to note that mild breathing issues encountered when performing aerobic exercises are not part of this category.

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There are many different things that can leave you short of breath. It’s not unlikely for you to feel as though you are unable to draw a complete breath when you are stressed or anxious. Certainly, most shortness of breath cases can be linked to a host of problems concerning the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Having frequent bouts of breathing difficulty and experiencing sudden and intense shortness of breath may indicate a serious medical case requiring prompt treatment.

In order to put an end to shortness of breath, the underlying cause needs to be identified so that the necessary treatment may be provided by a health care provider. Sometimes, dietary modification, lifestyle changes and stress reduction can prove to be beneficial for someone who is short of breath from time to time.

Because shortness of breath can be attributed to a problem concerning your lungs and heart, it is something that should not be taken lightly. The following are some of the most common reasons why shortness of breath is encountered:


Very common in smokers as well as those who constantly inhale irritants, emphysema is one of the many problems that fall under chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. It is characterized by the destruction of the tiny air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs, causing a decrease in the amount of oxygen that gets to the bloodstream.

Chronic Bronchitis

Just like emphysema, chronic bronchitis is a key COPD condition. This disease causes shortness of breath as well as wheezing, coughing and chest pain because of the inflammation and tightness of the bronchial tubes which deliver air to the lungs. One of the most common causes of this disease is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract.


Also known as collapsed lung, pneumothorax happens when air enters and gets trapped in the pleural space, which is the tiny area between your lungs and chest cavity. It is a problem that can be caused by a trauma or condition affecting the respiratory system. Treatment options depend on the type and severity of pneumothorax.

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Pulmonary Edema

This condition happens when the lungs get filled with fluid. Pulmonary edema can be caused by a handful of health problems, and one of the most common of them all is congestive heart failure or CHF (which will be discussed later). It’s of utmost importance to note that pulmonary edema is a very serious problem that requires immediate treatment.

Lung Cancer

Just like what the name suggests, this is a form of cancer that begins in the lungs. Experts say that the top risk factor of this deadly disease is smoking. The problem with lung cancer is it can go undetected despite of it being present for several years already. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted drug therapy are the most common treatments for it.


This medical condition is an infection of one or both lungs due to bacteria, viruses or fungi. Pneumonia causes the alveoli to get inflamed and filled with pus, making the sufferer experience trouble breathing. The treatment for pneumonia depends on the kind as well as severity.

Pulmonary Embolism

When a blood clot gets lodged in one of the blood vessels in the lungs, pulmonary embolism takes place. It is possible for multiple blood clots to cause the problem, which can be very fatal. Urgent emergency care is vital to have the clot removed, causing the levels of oxygen in the blood to normalize and preventing damage to the various organs.

Congestive Heart Failure

CHF for short, this chronic condition is characterized by the heart’s inability to inefficiently pump blood to various parts of the body. There are many different causes of congestive heart failure, including high blood pressure and valve issues. Aside from shortness of breath, other symptoms are fatigue weight gain, increased urination at night and fatigue.

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