Dyspnea (Shortness of Breath)

Reviewed by Andrew M. Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP

Having trouble breathing can be uncomfortable and frightening. When you feel that your breathing is not right, it is called "shortness of breath" or "dyspnea," (disp-nee-uh).

Most of us have shortness of breath after exercise, such as running up a flight of stairs. In this case, you simply need to move slower and breathe during those activities. It also can be a reminder to participate in physical activity more often to improve your heart health.

Shortness of breath may indicate that your body is hungry for air, but why? It tells you that something is not working right—and the problem could be in your heart or lungs. It is an important warning sign to see your doctor. Don't ignore it.



Symptoms of dyspnea, include: 

  • Difficult or labored breathing
  • Feeling of suffocation or smothering
  • Inability to get enough air
  • Tightness or pains in the chest
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