Known medically as dyspnea, shortness of breath is the feeling of not being able to properly breathe or take in a full breath. While exercise has the potential to cause a winded feeling, often shortness of breath is a sign that something is seriously wrong, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Shortness of breath often feels like tightness in your chest, and it can be accompanied by gasping or wheezing. It can feel as if someone is pressing down upon you or squeezing you inside.
Shortness of breath can occur just once, or it can be a chronic problem that occurs frequently.
Sometimes, shortness of breath is caused by being out of shape, panic attacks, anemia, asthma, bronchitis, obesity and chronic sinusitis.
Serious health risks that cause shortness of breath symptoms include arrhythmia, heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Lung diseases--such as lung cancer, emphysema, interstitial lung disease and pulmonary embolisms--also have the potential to cause shortness of breath.
If shortness of breath makes it difficult for you to function or is accompanied by chest pain, fainting, nausea or vomiting, seek emergency medical attention, especially if it occurs during light activities like walking up and down stairs or performing everyday chores. Other signs that you should see your doctor include shortness of breath while at rest, difficulty sleeping due to trouble breathing, wheezing, high fever or a persistent, high cough.