What is Shortness of Breath?

What is Shortness of Breath and it's Symptoms?

Shortness of breath is a general term for dyspnea - a condition related to difficulty breathing, breathlessness, or "air hunger", when the organism does not get enough oxygen to maintain the bodily functions in order.

If you constantly experience shortness of breath, you will most likely experience one or several of the following oxygen deficiency symptoms:

  • Tiredness, muscle weakness, circulation problem;
  • Trouble sleeping at night, depression, irritability;
  • Difficulty concentrating, Memory loss, headaches, dizziness;
  • Impeded immune system (frequent cases of cold, flu or infections).

An episode of shortness of breath can happen to anyone after extended physical activity or when ascending to higher ground (mountains, skyscrapers, etc.), but if it occurs suddenly, without any tangible reason, this may be a sign of an underlying condition and needs to be properly diagnosed. Your doctor will most likely ask you several questions about when and where do you get short of breath, how long does it last, is it constant or not, how frequent does this happen, and several others. Earnestly answering all these questions will help to find out what is the cause of your condition as well as understand what is shortness of breath.

What Causes Shortness of Breath

As you know, our organism requires oxygen to function properly. When we inhale, specific muscles contract and allow fresh air into the lungs. When we exhale, air deprived of oxygen is dispelled from the organism.

If you have shortness of breath, the problem most likely lies at one of these stages and may consist of:

  • Habit of breathing in too shallow, weak breathing muscles or lack of physical activity may cause shortness of breath on a strictly physical level - you do not inhale enough air for the organism to process;
  • A condition that impedes the function of lungs and airways - asthma, pneumonia, interstitial lung disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will disallow the access of oxygen into the lungs and reduce the amount of oxygen that can be processed, causing the symptoms;
  • Heart or circulation problems, such as congestive heart failure, cardiac ischemia, atrial fibrillation, as well as obesity and blood vessel problems may reduce the rate and effectiveness at which oxygen if transferred to the body's tissues, often causing shortness of breath and other symptoms.