Causes of Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath can be a medical emergency. There is a risk of respiratory distress and even of respiratory failure. Seek medical help immediately for this symptom.

Acute Disorders: Acute causes of shortness of breath include:

Chronic Disorders: There are various chronic respiratory disorders and chronic heart disorders that can result in shortness of breath (either acute or chronic breathing difficulty):

Similar Symptoms: Particular types of shortness of breath include:

Read more about: Breathing Difficulty, Respiratory Symptoms

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Back to: « Shortness of Breath

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In older adults, COPD can sometimes be confused with asthma. If you have shortness of breath, wheezing, or other problems breathing, your doctor will be able to tell if you have COPD, asthma, or another condition.

Source: NIA (NIH)1

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Causes of shortness of breath

Shortness of breath has lots of different causes.

Common causes include a cold or chest infection, being overweight, and smoking. It can also be a sign of a panic attack.

But sometimes it could be a sign of something more serious, such as a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer.

Source: NHS Choices UK2

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Heart attack: Severe shortness of breath

This symptom can come on suddenly. It may occur while you are at rest or with minimal physical activity. You may struggle to breathe or try taking deep breaths. Shortness of breath may start before or at the same time as chest pain or discomfort, and can even be your only symptom.

If you have any one of these symptoms and it lasts for more than five minutes, call 9-1-1 for emergency medical care. Even if your symptoms go away in less than five minutes, call your doctor right away—it could be a sign that a heart attack is coming soon. Don't waste time trying home remedies or waiting for the feelings to pass on their own. Remember, quick treatment can save your life.

Source: OWH (DHHS)3

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Myasthenia gravis: Myasthenia gravis is a rare long-term condition that causes muscle weakness that comes and goes.

Source: NHS Choices UK4

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Postural tachycardia syndrome: Postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) is an abnormal increase in heart rate that occurs after sitting up or standing. It typically causes dizziness, fainting and other symptoms.

Source: NHS Choices UK5

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Rheumatic fever: The symptoms of rheumatic fever include joint pain and swelling (arthritis) and inflammation of the heart, which can cause shortness of breath and chest pain.

Source: NHS Choices UK6

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Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition which can cause inflammation to develop in other parts of your body, such as the:

Source: NHS Choices UK7

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Sarcoidosis: The two main symptoms are shortness of breath and a persistent dry cough. Some people with pulmonary sarcoidosis experience pain and discomfort in their chest, but this is uncommon.

Source: NHS Choices UK8

Causes List for Shortness of Breath

List of possible causes of Shortness of Breath or similar symptoms may include:9

... Full Causes List for Shortness of Breath »


See also causes of similar conditions:

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  1. Source: NIA (NIH): health/ understanding-lung-problems
  2. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ shortness-of-breath/ 
  3. Source: OWH (DHHS): heartattack/ symptoms.html
  4. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ Myasthenia-gravis/ 
  5. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ postural-tachycardia-syndrome/ 
  6. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ Rheumatic-fever/ 
  7. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ rheumatoid-arthritis/ complications/ 
  8. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ sarcoidosis/ 
  9. Source: Algorithmically Generated List

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.