Breathlessness is the uncomfortable sensation of not being able to breathe. Some people refer to it as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
It is normal to feel breathless after significant exertion but if you feel breathless at rest, after minimal exertion or after an activity that recently would not leave you breathless then a medical condition may be responsible for this and an expert assessment is recommended.
There are many conditions that result in breathlessness. These can be due respiratory, cardiac, neurological or other issues.
These tests measure lung volume, capacity, and flow rates, helping diagnose conditions like asthma, COPD, and fibrosis.
This test evaluates the performance of the lungs and heart during exercise, providing insights into issues that might only arise during physical activity.
Comprehensive blood tests can uncover conditions like anaemia or infection that might lead to breathlessness.
This test measures the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood, offering critical information about your lungs’ ability to move oxygen into the blood and remove carbon dioxide.
An echocardiogram uses ultrasound to visualise heart function, detecting problems like heart failure or valve disorders that can cause breathlessness.
An ECG records the electrical activity of the heart, revealing heart-related issues like arrhythmias or heart attacks.
Management is focused at treating the underlying condition.
In cases where breathlessness is ongoing a multi-professional approach is useful at controlling the symptom of breathlessness.
This is a programme for people with lung disease. It involves physical exercise training and education on how to manage you condition.
Supplemental oxygen may be indicated if you have low oxygen levels. This may be needed during exercise (ambulatory oxygen) or long-term.
Medication is targeted at treating the underlying condition (e..g bronchodilators in airway dsiease, diuretics for pulmonary oedema).
Anxiolytics may be helpful for patients with anxiety.
Opiates may be helpful to reduce the sensation of breathlessness.