Shortness of Breath

Finding a Cause & Treatment at Washington Township Medical Foundation

Shortness of breath or “dyspnea” is a term used to describe the feeling of being unable to get enough air. Different people describe this sensation in different ways. Some feel a severe tightening in the chest; others may feel suffocated or describe it as a feeling of “air hunger.” Most people have experienced shortness of breath in certain situations, such as visiting a location of a high altitude or engaging in strenuous exercise. When shortness of breath becomes a chronic experience that doesn’t go away, however, it is important to get help. See a pulmonary specialist at Washington Township Medical Foundation for diagnosis and treatment.

Conditions That May Cause Shortness of Breath

Acute shortness of breath—meaning shortness of breath that occurs suddenly—may be caused by factors or conditions such as:

  • Asthma
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Heart failure
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Cardiac tamponade
  • Blood loss
  • Obstruction of the upper airways
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Low blood pressure

Causes of shortness of breath that has lasted for weeks or even more—or “chronic” causes—include:

  • Asthma
  • Heart dysfunction
  • Interstitial lung diseases
  • Obesity
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Other issues can cause shortness of breath, including heart and lung disorders. A partial list could include:

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Anemia
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Broken ribs
  • Anxiety
  • Inhaled foreign object requiring first aid
  • Pericarditis
  • Lung cancer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pleurisy
  • Croup
  • Pulmonary hypertension