Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is a feeling of breathlessness that causes a change in breathing pattern. Dyspnea is a common symptom causing individuals to seek medical attention in emergency rooms. Causes of dyspnea can be benign and self limited, or can be serious and emergent.
Shortness of Breath
|Causes||Exercise, Smoking, Fatigue, Infections|
|See Also||Respiratory Conditions, Anemia, Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Congestive Heart Failure, Hyperventilation syndrome, Pneumonia|
|Books||Books on Respiratory Conditions|
|Articles||Articles on Respiratory Conditions|
Related Systems and Conditions
Conditions associated with shortness of breath include:
- Bacterial tracheitis
- Foreign Body Aspiration
- Pulmonary Embolism
- Status asthmaticus
Individuals presenting with dyspnea need to have underlying emergent causes ruled out quickly. After a thorough physical exam and health history, the following diagnostic testing may be utilized:
- Laboratory tests to evaluate the cause of dyspnea include CBC, blood chemistry, pulse oximetry, and waveform capnography.
- Imaging studies to evaluate dyspnea include chest radiograph, CT scan, pulmonary angiogram, MRI, ultrasound, bronchoscopy, and laryngoscopy.
Symptoms associated with dyspnea (other than dyspnea itself) include:
It is important to identify the etiology of shortness of breath, and the root cause must be identified in order to address and treat the condition. Once emergent causes have been ruled out, or when shortness of breath is a chronic condition for a person the following naturopathic therapies may prove beneficial.
Several strategies can be used in the home to alleviate symptoms of dyspnea, and help to increase quality of life. Energy conservation (ie pacing oneself during activity), positional breathing strategies, inspiratory muscle exercises, exercise training (to desensitize to dyspnea and build self confidence), and psychological coping strategies.
Lifestyle recommendations include:
As mentioned, dyspnea is a symptom of an underlying pathological process. In order to address dyspnea with naturopathic therapies, it is important to identify the root cause. For specific naturopathic therapies for dyspnea, see the conditions section for conditions that may cause dyspnea.
Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND 
- Dains JE, Baumann LC, Scheibel (2007) Advanced Health Assessment and Clinical Diagnosis in Primary Care third ed Chap 11 Dyspnea Mosby
- Braithwaite S, Perina D (2009) Marx: Rosen's Emergency Medicine 7th ed Chap 17 Dyspnea Mosby
- Schwartzstein RM, Adams L (2010) Mason: Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine 5th ed Part III Clinical Respiratory Medicine Chap 28 Dyspnea Saunders
- Puente-Maestu L, Stringer WW (2006) Hyperinflation and its management in COPD. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis 1:381-400.