Dyspnea is a medical term used to describe a “shortness of breath”  or “difficulty breathing” often caused by a medical condition, side effect, adverse effect, an injury, or another cause that is affecting the Lungs.

These individuals may have obvious difficultly with breathing. It may be quite painful, or the findings may be very minimal.

The individual may report that they can’t seem to suck in enough air.

It is important to understand when the difficulty breathing is happening. All the time vs only when walking.

However, shortness of breath may happen when exercising for the first time in a while. This is not a medical emergency. 


–  Shortness of Breath after exertion
–  Feeling Smothered or Feeling of Suffocation – without an external force
–  Racing Heart
–  Wheezing
–  Coughing
–  Labored Breathing
–  Tightness in Chest
–  Shallow breathing
–  Rapid breathing

Four Different Categories of Dyspnea

1.)  Ortopnea

–  Difficulty breathing although the individual is in normal/good respiratory condition

2.)  Resting Dyspnea

–  Difficulty breathing at rest

3.)  Talking Dyspnea

–  Difficulty breathing while talking

4.)  Dyspnea on exertion

–  Difficulty breathing that worsens with physical activity

Important causes to be noted are the following:

Acute Medical Issues

–  Choking
–  Inhalings something that blocks the airway
–  Blood loss
–  Shock
–  Croup
–  Serious injury

Chronic Medical Issues

–  Asthma
–  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
–  Congestive Heart Failure
–  Obesity
–  Emphysema
–  Chronic Respiratory Failure
–  Panic attacks
–  Pneumothorax
–  and many others


*** Largely Depends on Cause

1.)  Remove Inciting Trigger

2.)  Treatment of Problem – Blood pressure, Asthma meds, etc

3.)  Oxygen

4.)  Lay down


When to Go to the Hospital?

  –  If symptoms persist despite treatment – you may need to seek medical help.

  –  If you have difficulty breathing and Chest pain or COVID – you may need to be seen emergently

  –  When symptoms become life-threatening or seriously concerning

  –  If you are being followed by someone already but symptoms are significantly worse – you need to be reevaluated.

  –  Sometimes symptoms are bad but not life-threatening. In these cases, call your doctor for further instruction. Not all cases of Dyspnea require a doctor’s visit or a hospital visit.