Breathing problems

What are breathing problems?

Breathing problems can be defined as sudden shortness of breath, or breathing difficulty (dyspnoea).

If you have over-exerted yourself, it would be normal for you to be out of breath. Howeber, when breathlessness comes on suddenly and unexpectedly, it is usually a warning sign of a medical condition.


breathing problems


Breathing problems are usually experienced as:

  • sudden shortness of breath
  • long-term shortness of breath

What causes breathing problems?

Short term breathing problems

Unexpected and sudden breathlessness is most likely to be caused by one of the following health conditions.

  • Asthma attacks -This means your airways have narrowed and you'll produce more phlegm (sticky mucus), this makes it difficult to move air in and out of the airways, thus making you feel breathless. This would cause you to cough and wheeze. of the airways.
  • Pneumonia (lung inflammation)
  • COPD

A heart problem

  • Heat attack - It's possible to have a "silent" heart attack without experiencing all the obvious symptoms, such as chest pain .
  • Heart failure - It can also cause breathing difficulties.
  • Atrial Fibrillation ( an irregular and fast heart rate).
  • Supraventricular tachycardia (regular and fast heart rate).

Panic attack or anxiety

A panic attack can cause you to hyperventilate ( rapid or deep breaths). Slowing your breathing or breathing through a paper bag should bring your breathing back to normal.

Long-term breathlessness is usually caused by:

  • Being unfit or obesity.
  • poorly controlled asthma.
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) .
  • anaemia.
  • heart failure.
  • atrial fibrillation (an irregular and fast heart rate).
  • supraventricular tachycardia (regular and fast heart rate)

More unusual causes of long-term breathlessness are:

What is the prognosis of illness/condition

This would depend on the cause of the breathing problems.

Medical tests to diagnose the causes of breathing problems

  • Imaging of the lungs with a CT scan.
  • Chest x-ray.
  • Measuring oxygen and blood pressure
  • Checking the history of symptoms.

How is shortness of breath treated?

This would depend on the causes of breathing problems. However, the underlying condition may need other therapies depending on which part of the lungs are affected.

  • Medication
  • Non-pharmalogical tools


In the case of asthma, your doctor may advise you to use a spacer device with your asthma inhaler. This would deliver more medicine to your lung, helping to relieve your breathlessness.


  • Stopping smoking and medication to relieve symptoms.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation.
  • Surgery in some cases.
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