What is Breathlessness

Experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathingis natural when you over-exert yourself. Those who are claustrophobic or prone to anxiety disordersmay complain of breathlessness too. Breathlessness in pregnancy during the first or second trimester is also common. However, it starts to become a problem when you face sudden breathlessness, because it is usually a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

Identifying the actual cause behind this breathlessness can take some time and should be done under the supervision of a qualified doctor. Breathlessness in adults could be a symptom of a number of ailments and should be first measured by thedoctor to identify your medical condition correctly.

measure breathlessness

How does a doctor measure breathlessness?
A doctor can measure breathlessness with a score system developed by the Medical Research Council.

  • Breathless on vigorous exertion - for example, running.
  • Breathless walking up slopes.
  • Breathless walking at normal pace on the flat; having to stop from time to time.
  • Stopping for breath after a few minutes on the level.
  • Too breathless to leave the house.

Symptoms accompanyingbreathlessness
Breathlessness may or may not be coupled with other sensations. However, it’s very important to be as specific as possible while describing your condition to your doctor. Therefore keep a watch for commonsymptomsthat may accompany breathlessness.

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain with tightness
  • Weight loss
  • Neck pain
  • Cough

The above symptoms may hold clues to your problem and will be generally asked by your healthcare expert during diagnosis. While adults can easily communicate these symptoms, the cause behind shortness of breath in infants and children is difficult to predict. Therefore if a child faces difficulty in breathing while suffering from cold, fever or cough, they should be immediately taken to the doctor.

Breathlessness is an indicator
The reason why we are stressing on breathlessness and its symptoms is because it is a common indicator of a host of lung diseases, and any delay in its treatment can make the condition worse. Some of these lung diseases include:

  • 1) Asthma

Asthma is a fairly common ailment that occurs when the airways of the lungs are obstructed. External factors such as irritants and allergenscan trigger symptoms, however, some people may also experience exercise-induced asthma, occupational asthma and allergy-induced asthma. A patient may often experience breathlessness during an asthma attack,but only your doctor can tell whether your breathlessness is a sign of asthma.

  • 2) Bronchitis

Bronchitis occurs when there’s swelling and inflammation in the passages that provide air to the lungs. The swollen airways obstruct normal breathing and the person experiences breathlessness. Chronic bronchitisis a long term ailment and shortness of breathis commonly experienced while coping with the disease.

Bronchitis occurs when there’s swelling  and inflammation in the passages
  • 3) Emphysema

Emphysema occurs among those who inhale irritants which damage the air sacs gradually leading to shortness of breath. The leading cause of emphysema is smoking cigarettes or marijuana. Air pollution and industrial hazards are other common causes of emphysema. Breathlessness and emphysemacan become a constant pair if not treated early on.

  • 4) Pneumothorax

Pneumothorax or a collapsed lung occurs when air manages to enter the area surrounding your lungs. Pneumothorax breathlessness is combined with steady chest pain and can cause damage to your heart. A car accident, a sports injury and improper treatment conducted in the abdominal region can all trigger pneumothorax and demandimmediate medical attention.

  • 5) Bronchiectasis

People suffering from bronchiectasis complain of breathing problems especially shortness of breath. A lung infection is one of the most common causes of bronchiectasis. The bronchial tubes of a person are enlarged or permanently damaged when they are suffering from this disease. Tuberculosis, the common flu, inhaling foreign objects, breathing in of stomach acids, etc. can be responsible for a person developing bronchiectasis.

  • 6) Empyema

Alcoholics and diabetics are at a higher risk of contracting empyema. This is an illness that is caused by the accumulation of pus in the pleural region. The pleural region is the space between the lungs and chest wall. Pus gets collected in this area as a result of fluid build-up which gets infested by bacteria. Empyema can be categorized as simple and complex empyema, severe breathlessness being a common symptom for both.

Tests for Breathlessness
As you can see breathlessness is a common indicator of a number of diseases, your doctor may conduct one or a combination of tests during breathlessness diagnosis. Some of these include:

Tests for Breathlessness
  • 1) Breathing test

This testhelps determine the condition of the lungs, and find out what is obstructing the airways and lung tissue.

  • 2) Chest X-ray

Chest x-ray is one of the breathlessness teststhat may be recommended to you as it helps identify common causes of shortness of breath and lung infections including COPD and pneumonia.

  • 3) 15 count breathlessness test

A15 count breathlessness test is commonly used among children. The child taking the test is asked to count loudly up to 15, the score is based on the number of breaths the child takes during the counting.

  • 4) Blood test

As blood carries oxygen, a low blood count can be an indication of a number of diseases, such as anaemia.

Breathlessness Treatment
After finding out the possible cause of your breathlessness, your doctor will createa treatment plan for you. This may or may not include quick relief and long term medications.Make sure you consult a qualified doctor for your condition. Breathlessness anxiety treatment includes learning a few breathing techniques from a physiotherapist.Although people may recommend home treatments for breathlessness, do not rely on them as that can make your condition worse.


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