Short of breath? Here are 9 reasons for breathlessness

When you're short of breath, it's not always a symptom of asthma or heart attack. Here are other causes of breathlessness.
emotional exhaustion
Breathlessness is a symptom of widowmaker heart attack. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Aayushi Gupta Published: 19 Jul 2022, 11:30 am IST
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Breathing heavily? Well, when you’re short of breath, it might be quite challenging and uncomfortable for you to breathe. And you may also feel as if you aren’t getting enough oxygen. Experiencing mild breathing issues can be because of a stuffy nose or a strenuous workout. But shortness of breath can also be a sign of serious diseases. The two most prominent reasons for it are definitely heart attack and asthma. However, there are several other causes of breathlessness.

HealthShots spoke to Dr Jignesh Patel, Consultant Pulmonologist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, Mumbai, to find the reasons which can lead to breathlessness.

Here are 8 causes of breathlessness:

1. Choking

Choking is when something is stuck in the airways and can cause breathlessness. The main symptoms of it include the inability to breathe and talk. In severe cases, the skin may turn blue.

causes of breathlessness
Choking cuts off oxygen. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Asthma

“It happens due to inflammation in the airways, which causes the lungs to swell and narrow. This in turn can lead to breathlessness, coughing, and wheezing,” says Dr Patel. Do not take this condition lightly at all and seek immediate medical attention.

3. Pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism is seen when the arteries of the lung get blocked due to a blood clot, fat cell, tumor cell, or air. It happens because of a blood clot in the vein of the thigh. This condition is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT, wherein the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, causing breathlessness and even chest pain.

4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

It is a group of progressive lung diseases that make it harder for one to breathe. Its symptoms include breathing difficulties, mucus, wheezing, and coughing.

5. Pneumonia

It occurs owing to the inflammation of one or both lungs, generally caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia. The bacteria cause a buildup of fluids in the air sacs of the lung which makes one breathless.

6. Heart issues

Angina, heart attack, heart failure, congenital heart defects, arrhythmia: someone having any of these will show symptoms of breathlessness due to increased pressure in the blood vessels near the lungs.

causes of breathlessness
Shortness of breath is common symptom of heart problem. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

7. Anxiety

“Breathlessness linked to anxiety is due to hyperventilation (over-breathing). If one gets an anxiety attack, his/her body goes into fight or flight mode and breathing will be fast. Moreover, breathing too fast means taking in too much oxygen and letting out too much carbon dioxide. So, your body feels that you’re not breathing enough. This causes hyperventilation or even shortness of breath,” says Dr Patel.

8. Covid-19

One of the defining signs of Covid-19, the illness brought on by the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, is shortness of breath, sometimes known clinically as dyspnea. Contrary to many other illnesses, Covid-19 patients may experience persistent shortness of breath that worsens quickly.

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9. Other causes

Interstitial lung disease, acidosis, pleural effusion, and lung malignancy are also the causes of breathlessness.

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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