Having shortness of breath is a normal occurrence after running, strenuous exercise and playing sports, but it can also be triggered by many different medical conditions. Some emergency conditions such as heart attacks and pneumonia are often accompanied by shortness of breath. However, a few conditions cause chronic shortness of breath as a normal part of the disease.
What is Shortness of Breath?
Shortness of breath is a feeling of not being able to inhale enough air, you may also feel tightness in your chest. Physical activity can bring on this feeling, or even laying flat may cause shortness of breath in some. You may be having other symptoms in conjunction with shortness of breath, such as coughing, chest pains or fever. If you have these symptoms, it is important to see a physician because they can indicate serious illnesses. Your doctor will perform tests such as a chest X-ray and electrocardiogram, to monitor the function of your heart and lungs, and to see if there are any visible obstructions.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that has two types, both types make it very difficult to breathe. The two types are chronic bronchitis, which causes excess mucus and swelling in the main airways in the lungs; and emphysema, which is a disease of the lungs that causes destruction of the air sacs in the lungs. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most people with COPD have both.
Hiatal hernia is a medical condition that causes part of the stomach to protrude up toward the chest and into the diaphragm opening. The diaphragm muscle separates the chest from the abdomen, and it's used to help you breathe. The hiatal hernia puts pressure on the diaphragm, which in turn puts pressure on the chest; this is what causes you to feel short of breath. This feeling may worsen if you lie down soon after eating.The cause of hiatal hernia is unknown, although the NIH reports that researchers have said it may be due to the weakening of supporting tissues. This risk increases with age, smoking and obesity. Symptoms of hiatal hernia include belching, chest pain, heartburn and difficulty swallowing.
Allergies are common among many people of all ages and backgrounds. Your immune system normally protects your body against harmful substances such as bacteria and viruses, but it also protects you against foreign substances called allergens. Allergens are harmless, but they still cause your immune system to react as if they are foreign. Allergens do not cause any reaction at all in most people, but in some the immune system can be oversensitive causing itching, swelling, mucus production, hives, coughing, diarrhea, headache, vomiting, wheezing, breathing problems and rashes. The most common allergens are pollen, dust, dander (from pets) and mold. Some other forms of allergens that are less common are insect bites, cosmetics, spices and jewelry.
Asthma, according to the NIH, is an inflammation of the airways. Asthma attacks make it difficult to breathe by causing the muscles that surround the airway to tighten, which causes the air passage lining to swell. The most common triggers of asthma attacks are animals (often fur or dander), dust, changes in weather, mold, chemicals, pollen, respiratory infections, tobacco and stress. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. Emergency signs may be bluish lips or face, confusion, unexplained drowsiness, rapid pulse, severe anxiety and sweating.