Shortness of breath symptoms can occur rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. Perhaps climbing a flight or two of stairs has never really affected your breathing till now, or perhaps you notice that it’s harder to breathe even when you’re just sitting down watching TV.
Breathing allows us to bring oxygen into our body and expel carbon dioxide. When your body doesn’t have enough oxygen or has too much carbon dioxide, you automatically breathe faster. If you are above a healthy weight, your heart and lungs have to work harder to supply oxygen to your body. So losing weight through diet and exercise will make breathing more manageable, especially when you are active.
There are over 180 conditions that could be causing your breathing difficulties. From the common cold to Emphysema caused by smoking to a Heart Attack. But here are just a few that we’ll look into briefly.
The most common lung condition that might explain your problem is adult-onset asthma. Asthma can be easy to diagnose when there is a typical history of wheezing and cough brought on by a recognizable trigger such as pollen or pet dander, but it is often a more subtle condition, especially in adults. Shortness of breath may be the only symptom and exercise can itself be the primary trigger.
Anxiety is the body’s natural way of dealing with what it perceives as a danger or a threat. When that happens, you start to feel changes happening in your body. You might feel that the muscles in your body are tensed, you are breathing heavier, your heart may be racing, and you are starting to sweat.
“Pneumothorax” is the medical term for a collapsed lung. Pneumothorax occurs when air enters the pleural space around your lungs. Air can leak into the pleural space when there’s an open injury in your chest wall or a rupture in your lung tissue, interrupting the pressure that keeps your lungs inflated.
There are two types of pneumothorax. Traumatic pneumothorax and Nontraumatic pneumothorax.
Traumatic pneumothorax occurs after trauma or injury has happened to the chest or lung wall. It can be caused even by a minor. The trauma can damage chest structures and cause air to leak into the pleural space. Nontraumatic pneumothorax, on the other hand, doesn’t occur after injury. Instead, it happens spontaneously.
There are two major types of Nontraumatic pneumothorax:
Primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP) occurs in people who have no known lung disease, often affecting young males who are tall and thin.
Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax (SSP) tends to happen in the elderly with known lung problems.
Bronchiectasis is a condition with which the bronchial tubes of your lungs are permanently damaged, widened, and thickened. These damaged air passages allow bacteria and mucus to build up and pool in your lungs. This then results in frequent infections and blockages in the airways. Doctors have not found a cure for the condition, but with treatment, you can typically live a relatively healthy life.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a group of progressive lung diseases. With the most common being emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Many people with COPD have both of these conditions.
What Emphysema does is to slowly destroy the air sacs in your lungs, which then interferes with outward air flow. Bronchitis itself causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which then allows mucus to build up in them.
Symptoms may begin mildly with coughing and shortness of breath. As it worsens, it can become increasingly difficult to breathe. You may experience wheezing and tightness in the chest. Some people with COPD have exacerbations or flare-ups of severe symptoms. The leading cause of COPD today has been found to be smoking.
If you experience a degree of breathlessness that is new to you, see your doctor.