Shortness of breath (dyspnea or dyspnoea), is an uncomfortable feeling of not being able to breathe well enough. It is defined "a subjective experience of breathing discomfort that consists of qualitatively distinct sensations that vary in intensity."
It is necessary to evaluate dyspnea by assessing the intensity of its distinct sensations (effort/work to breathe, chest tightness or pain, and "air hunger"), the degree of distress and discomfort involved, and its burden or impact on the patient's daily activities.
Dyspnea is a normal sign of heavy physical effort but becomes morbid if it occurs in unexpected situations, when resting, or during light exertion.
In 85% of cases, it is due to asthma, pneumonia, cardiac ischemia, interstitial lung disease, congestive heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It may also have psychogenic, neurological, musculoskeletal, endocrine, and hematologic causes.
The most common causes are:
• cardiovascular: acute myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure;
• pulmonary: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, pneumothorax, pulmonary edema and pneumonia; or
• psychogenic: panic disorder, anxiety.
The causes can be divided into three categories.
1. Increased awareness of normal breathing, such as during an anxiety attack
2. Increase in the work of breathing.
3. Abnormality in the ventilatory or respiratory system.
The best management to relieve or even remove shortness of breath is typically to treat the underlying cause.
See reference for more information.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Internet. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortness_of_breath. Accessed on July 15, 2022.