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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Shortness of Breath
      Category : Health Centers > Respiratory System (Lungs and Breathing)

Shortness of Breath

Alternate Names : Dyspnea, Trouble Breathing, Difficulty Breathing, SOB

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

People with shortness of breath feel as though they can't get enough air or are "out of breath."

What is going on in the body?

Shortness of breath can be due to many different causes. It is normal with strenuous activity. An affected person has the feeling of "air hunger," as though they cannot take in enough air. Breathing heavily may or may not make the person feel better.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The many causes of shortness of breath can be divided into categories:

  • exercise or other activity, especially if the person is in poor physical shape
  • lung conditions, such as asthma, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, pulmonary edema, or emphysema
  • heart conditions, such as stable angina, a heart attack, congestive heart failure, or chronic mitral regurgitation
  • blood and blood vessel problems, such as anemia or a pulmonary embolus
  • anxiety, such as from a panic disorder
  • too much acid in the blood, which can occur with diabetes, serious blood infections such as septicemia, salt imbalances or severe dehydration
  • rapid ascent to high altitudes without allowing the body time to adjust, known as acute mountain sickness
  • cigarette smoking
  • allergies
  • airway obstruction, such as in a child who may have choked on an object
  • Other causes are also possible. In some cases, the cause cannot be found.


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    Shortness of Breath: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 08/20/01

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