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By Medicover Hospitals / 24 Dec 2020
Home | symptoms | breathlessness
  • Difficult or labored breathing. Shortness of breath can have causes that are not due to an underlying disease. Examples include exercise, altitude, tight clothing, an extended period of bed rest, or a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Article Context:

    1. What is Breathlessness?
    2. Causes of Breathlessness
    3. Signs of Breathlessness
    4. Diagnosis
    5. Breathlessness can be measured by
    6. Treatment
    7. Evaluation of breathlessness during doctor consultation
    8. When to seek a Doctor’s advice?
    9. Breathlessness Remedies
    10. Frequently Asked Questions
    11. Citations

    What is Breathlessness?

  • Breathlessness refers to shortness of breath. This may come in two ways acute, i.e. suddenly or in a chronic period. Deficiency of oxygen can cause some serious issues in our body.
  • If there is a sudden breathlessness, then it’s better to consult the doctor as it’s an underlying medical condition. Asthma affects younger children and smokers who inhale high rates of cigarettes and can face breathlessness as their lungs get affected directly. Heart patients, mainly older age groups have a high chance of getting breathless problems.
  • Causes of Breathlessness:

    • Asthma: It commonly affects the airways. Symptoms that can be seen are coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath. All the symptoms can be mild or severe. The best asthma treatment is inhalers. The person with severe symptoms of asthma will take the inhaler every day.
    • Pneumonia: This is caused due to the infection in larger airways. It can be more dangerous than bronchitis. Symptoms of Pneumonia are Loss of appetite, Sweating, Shivering, and headaches. Coughing a lot can be a reason for high breathlessness.
    • Heart Disease: In some uncertain moments there can be heart failure where people are not able to breathe properly. These may create fluid pressure and build up some tissues in our body and this extra fluid may cause swelling which may lead to breathing problems.
    • Pulmonary Embolism: This is a life-threatening condition as it causes blockage of blood vessels in the lungs. It may cause some chest pain and breathing problems. Treatment can cure you from the disease.
    • Anxiety: Many people are anxious about different things and these are referred to as anxiety disorders. Symptoms can be heart rate going fast, sickness, Sweating, headaches, and first breathing. This can be treated through various treatments and medications.
    • Anemia: It means we are having low red blood cells or having low hemoglobin. Some of the symptoms can be the reduction of oxygen in the body. It may include tiredness, feeling faint, and becoming breathless. A simple blood test and taking consultation from the Doctor can be easily cured.
    • Obesity: Getting overweight can be a big reason for your breathlessness. A decrease in your weight can help you in getting better health. Changing lifestyle may help you in reducing weight.
    • Lung condition: It may cause breathlessness in different ways like inflamed or narrow airways. These may make your lung stiff and elastic. Lung conditions are more affected when there is asthma, bronchiectasis, and lung cancer.
    Other causes may include:
    • Smoking
    • Kidney Disease
    • Thyroid Disease
    • Weight Loss
    • Muscular Dystrophy

    Signs of Breathlessness:

    Breathlessness signs can be found as:
    • Difficulty while breathing
    • Noisy breathing
    • Increase in pulse rate
    • Chest pain
    • Cold and pale skin
    • Taking the help of upper chest or muscles while breathing
    • Infection in Chest
    • Any heart problem


  • Your doctor will likely perform tests to help diagnose the cause of your shortness of breath. They can:
    • do breathing and lung function tests
    • check the number of breaths you take each minute, listen to your chest and watch and feel how your chest moves when you breathe
    • check your heart rate and beating, and check if the liquid is building up in your ankles or lungs
    • check your blood pressure and temperature
    • check your height, weight, height, and body mass index
    • examine your head, neck, and armpits to see if your lymph nodes are swollen
    • See your eyes, nails, skin, and joints
    • check your blood oxygen level with a pulse oximeter
  • If your doctor finds signs of anxiety or depression, they may also ask you to take a short questionnaire.You may be referred for further testing at your doctor's office, local testing center, or hospital. For example:
    • a chest x-ray
    • a spirometry test
    • an EKG or ECG - if your shortness of breath is intermittent, you may be required to wear a portable recorder for 24 hours or seven days to record your heart's electrical activity
    • an echocardiogram - this is a non-invasive ultrasound of your heart that can tell how well it is working
    • blood tests to check for anemia, allergies, or problems with your thyroid, liver, kidney, or heart.

    Breathlessness can be measured by:

    • No breathlessness
    • Breathlessness on doing heavy exercise
    • Breathing problem while walking the slopes


    • Treatment will depend on the probable cause of your shortness of breath. You will be strongly encouraged to stop smoking if you smoke. It will also help you if you are losing weight if you are overweight.
    • You will likely be referred to a cardiologist or lung specialist, for further testing, depending on the most likely underlying cause.
    • Most cases will be looked after by your GP, but you may be referred for further investigation and treatment in a hospital.

    Evaluation of breathlessness during doctor consultation:

    • Did it start recently or with a period of time?
    • Moderate or severe abdominal pain.
    • How much distance can you cover while walking?
    • Are you sick?
    • Do you Cough for a longer time?
    • Do you smoke?
    • Affects the Airways
    • Breathing Problem
    • Shortness of Breath
    • Coughing
    • Chest Pain
    • Pale Skin
    • Infection in Larger airways
    • Throat infection
    • Loss of appetite
    • Sweating
    • Shivering
    • Headaches
    • High Fever
    Heart Disease
    • Heart Failure
    • Heart Attacks
    • Swelling
    • Breathing Problem
    • Pale face
    Pulmonary Embolism
    • Blockage of the Blood vessel in the lungs
    • Chest pain
    • Breathing Problem
    • Panic disorder
    • Dizziness
    • Stress disorders
    • Sickness
    • Sweating
    • Headaches
    • First breathing
    • Low red blood cells
    • Low hemoglobin
    • Reduction of oxygen
    • Tiredness
    • Feeling Fainted
    • Breathless
    • Increase Heartbeat

    When to seek a Doctor’s advice?

    • If there’s any medical emergency
    • Not getting enough oxygen
    • Having a high rate of chest pain

    Breathlessness Remedies:

    • Pursed-lip breathing: It’s a simple way where shortness of breath can be controlled. It can control your pace of breathing, which makes your breath deeper and better. Just relax your neck and shoulder muscles, breathe in through your nose and exhale through your lips
    • Sitting forward: Sitting in a chair, bending forward, and resting your elbows, and relaxing may help in getting rid of breathlessness.
    • Sitting forward supported by a table is the best way to relax. Put your head down on the table and you may relax your body with the help of a pillow. Standing with your back support to the wall can help you in getting relief from breathlessness.
    • Standing with supporting arms on a table with a relaxed body portion would give you great relief from breathlessness.
    • Sleeping in a relaxed position may give you some sort of better experience while relaxing your body. Lie on your bed, keep a pillow under your head and take a deep breath to relax your full body.
    • Sit under a fan and relax your body and take in some fresh air.
    • Drinking coffee will help you in getting some fresh feel and relax your muscles.
  • Change in Lifestyles can cure the breathing problem:
    • Stop smoking
    • Avoid going to pollutants area
    • Lose weight
    • Stay healthy and eat well
    • For better treatment consult a Doctor

    Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Breathlessness refers to shortness of breath. This may come in two ways acute, i.e. suddenly or in a chronic period.
  • Asthma, anemia, Pneumonia, Obesity, and Heart disease can be a cause of Breathlessness.
  • Stop Smoking
  • Avoid going to areas which have higher pollutant concentration
  • Avoid coming in to contact with allergens that can trigger breathlessness
  • Losing weight
  • Breathlessness can be managed by practicing breathing exercises and changing lifestyles. Try some positions that may help you to recover from breathlessness.
  • Citations: