Skip to content

Dyspnea (Shortness of Breath)

Make an Appointment

This information was reviewed and approved by Andrew M. Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP (11/30/2012).

Dyspnea, or being short of breath, experiencing “air hunger,” or having difficulty catching your breath, is a subjective symptom.

There are no tools that can measure your sense of breathlessness. You may feel short of breath even though the pulse oximeter may read 93%. The important thing is to treat this symptom until you are comfortable and feel as if you are no longer short of breath.

Dyspnea may be caused by tumor blocking an airway or replacing part of your lung, fluid in or around the lungs (edema, pleural effusion), blocked blood flow in the major blood vessels to the heart (superior vena cava syndrome), blood clots in your lungs (pulmonary emboli), pneumonia or other respiratory infection, anemia (low red blood cell count), or hyperventilation due to anxiety. 

Sudden dyspnea or a rapid feeling of air hunger may indicate a medical emergency. Call 911 if you experience severe symptoms. Otherwise, call the Lung Cancer Center staff to discuss your symptoms. Prolonged dyspnea can lead to confusion and weakness, increasing your risk of falls.


Symptoms of Dyspnea:

  • Difficult or labored breathing

  • Feeling of suffocation or smothering

  • Inability to get enough air

  • Tightness or pains in the chest


Our Specialists

  • David A. Beuther

    David A. Beuther, MD, PhD, FCCP

  • James Brock

    James Brock, DO

  • Joseph Cooley

    Joseph Cooley, DO

  • Christopher K. Dyke

    Christopher K. Dyke, MD, FACC

  • Elizabeth M. Fan

    Elizabeth M. Fan, PA-C

  • Chris Fine

    Chris Fine, MD, FACC

  • Daniel S. Fink

    Daniel S. Fink, MD

  • Andrew M. Freeman

    Andrew M. Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP

  • Ann Granchelli

    Ann Granchelli, MD

  • Shelby R. Jenkins

    Shelby R. Jenkins, OTR

  • Rohit K. Katial

    Rohit K. Katial, MD

  • Rebecca C. Keith

    Rebecca C. Keith, MD

  • Darlene Kim

    Darlene Kim, MD, FACC

  • Gabriel C. Lockhart

    Gabriel C. Lockhart, MD

  • Laurie A. Manka

    Laurie A. Manka, MD

  • Hoang Nguyen

    Hoang Nguyen, PT, DPT

  • James K. O'Brien

    James K. O'Brien, MD, FACP, FCCP

  • J. Tod Olin

    J. Tod Olin, MD, MSCS

  • Claudia Onofrei

    Claudia Onofrei, MD, MSc

  • Kevin Rurak

    Kevin Rurak, MD

  • Howard Saft

    Howard Saft, MD, MS

  • Amanda Stephens

    Amanda Stephens, MD

  • Evan L. Stepp

    Evan L. Stepp, MD

  • Ryan Webster

    Ryan Webster, MD

  • Catherine Wittman

    Catherine Wittman, MD

  • Zulma X. Yunt

    Zulma X. Yunt, MD