Many people suffer from “Shortness Of Breath”, in the US, but few sensations are as frightening as not being able to get enough air. Shortness of breath is known medically as dyspnea. It is likely to be experienced differently by different people, it’s often described as an intense tightening in the chest or a feeling of suffocation. There are several different causes for it and it can be physical or physcological. Depending on the cause, you may experience shortness of breath just once or have recurring episodes that could become constant.
Disease, strenuous exercise, poor physical condition, extreme temperatures, massive obesity and high altitude all can cause shortness of breath even in a healthy person. Outside of these examples, typically shortness of breath is likely a sign of a medical problem. If you have unexplained shortness of breath, especially if it comes on suddenly and is severe, you need to see your doctor as soon as possible.
As stated shortness of breath has many causes, and affects either the breathing passages, lungs or the heart or blood vessels. The causes fall into categories such as but not entirely Allergies, Anaphylaxis, Anemia, Angina, Asthma, Bronchiectasis, Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema, Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, Obesity, Occupational Asthma, Pneumonia, and Pulmonary Edema. Doctors will further classify dyspnea as either occurring at rest or being associated with activity or exercise. They will also want to know if the dyspnea occurs gradually or all of a sudden. Each of these symptoms help to detect the precise cause of the shortness of your breath.
An average 150 pound adult will breath at an average rate of 14 breaths per minute at rest. Excessively rapid breathing is referred to as hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is overbreathing, in which ventilation exceeds the metabolic demand. Excessive breathing can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, shortness of breath, a sense of unsteadiness, muscle spasms in the hands and feet, and a tingling feeling around the mouth and fingertips. All of these symptoms are the result of abnormally low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood caused by overbreathing but to much oxygen is not what we are taking about in this article.
The term hyperventilation syndrome (HVS) is sometimes used to describe the effects of hyperventilation observed in an emergency department setting. Many acute (sudden onset) cases of hyperventilation arise from panic, anxiety, and other emotional conditions. Hyperventilation, particularly chronic hyperventilation (that persists over time), can also be due to a range of medical conditions.
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