Difficulty in breathing or breathlessness is medically referred to as dyspnea. The other name given to this condition is air hunger. If the episodes of dyspnea are recurring, then it is best not to neglect the condition and have it looked at by a health care professional. Often different tests will have to be carried out to find out the root cause of this condition. This condition may be caused due to an infection or also due to problem in the lungs or heart. Along with shortness of breath the person may also suffer from other symptoms like fatigue, stress, etc., which will also have to be noted.
It is important to note, that when one talks about breathlessness, it is either reduction in the quantity of air being supplied to the lungs or it can be due to inhalation of higher quantity of carbon dioxide and paucity of oxygen, which is giving rise to the condition.
Heart problems like irregular heartbeat, blockage in the heart, and, accumulation of fluid around the heart can cause breathlessness.
Breathlessness could occur due to blocked airways. If the lung passages are constricted either due to a chronic or an acute condition, the person may suffer from shortness of breath. Tumor or clots in and around the lungs can also trigger the condition.
Damaged Air Sacs
Damage to the air sacs in the lungs, due to a lung infection causes the lungs to be less efficient at getting oxygen into the blood and carbon dioxide out. The body adjusts to the change to a certain extent, however, in case of a sudden change in normal breathing pattern, the lungs cannot always keep up.
Excess Mucus in Lungs
Accumulation of mucus in the lungs blocks the airways, which in turn causes air hunger, as air cannot move around freely in the lungs and there is less space for air in the lungs.
When the hemoglobin count in the body reduces it results in less quantity of oxygen been circulated in the body. This is due to drop in the number of red blood cells in the body, which are the carriers of oxygen in the body.
Anxiety and Stress
When a person is stressed out or is anxious, it prevents the person from taking deep, full breaths. If stress is the cause, shortness of breath gets resolved when the stress or anxiety go away.
Other than the aforementioned causes, exposure to environmental irritants, smoking cigarettes, inhaling chemicals, etc. can also give rise to shortness of breath. Obesity is considered to be a risk factor for dyspnea on exertion.
Symptoms that May Accompany Breathlessness
- Rapid breathing
- Sputum yellow, green, red in color
- Sneezing a number of times
- Nasal congestion
- Rib retraction
- Nasal flaring
- Pain around the chest
- Loss of consciousness
- Unusual fatigue
- Pain radiating to jaw or neck
- General discomfort
- Worsening of asthma
- Heart palpitations
When a person is experiencing breathlessness, it is important to relax and try to have a few deep breaths. This will help in relieving the condition up to a certain extent. Often shallow breathing causes shortness of breath, because the oxygen levels in the body drop down considerably. There are a number of breathing exercises, which will prove to be of help in keeping this condition under control. In case of nasal congestion, a decongestant or taking steam will prove to be of help in remedying the problem. Drinking sufficient quantities of fluid helps in relieving nasal congestion.
It is best to consult a health care professional, if the problem persists for a longer period. After analyzing the patient's medical history and the symptoms accompanying breathlessness, the health care professional will be in a better place to decide the right line of treatment. Self treating the condition can prove to be fatal, therefore, should not be attempted.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.