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What are causes of shortness of breath (dyspnea)?

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Many health conditions can cause shortness of breath. The most common causes of acute dyspnea are:

Some of the more common causes of chronic dyspnea are:

Many other things, including panic attacks, lung cancer, and low red blood cell count (anemia), can make you feel out of breath. If you have dyspnea regularly and don't know why, make an appointment with your doctor to find out.

  • Pneumonia and other respiratory infections
  • Blood clot in your lungs (pulmonary embolism)
  • Choking (blocking of the respiratory tract)
  • Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Pregnancy
  • Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • Asthma
  • Being out of shape (deconditioning)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema
  • Stiff, thick, or swollen heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)
  • Scarring of the lungs (interstitial lung disease)

From: Dyspnea (Shortness of Breath) WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Paul Boyce on September 17, 2019

Medically Reviewed on 9/17/2019

SOURCES:

UpToDate: "Patient education: Shortness of breath (dyspnea) (Beyond the Basics)." 

Wonderopolis: "How Many Breaths Do You Take Each Day?"

American Family Physician: "Shortness of Breath."

American Thoracic Society: "Breathlessness."

Reviewed by Paul Boyce on September 17, 2019

SOURCES:

UpToDate: "Patient education: Shortness of breath (dyspnea) (Beyond the Basics)." 

Wonderopolis: "How Many Breaths Do You Take Each Day?"

American Family Physician: "Shortness of Breath."

American Thoracic Society: "Breathlessness."

Reviewed by Paul Boyce on September 17, 2019

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How is shortness of breath (dyspnea) diagnosed?

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