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Suffering from DYSPNEA?

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Breathing is a natural thing: breathe in, breathe out…not much to it, right? Well, guess what: there actually is a wrong and right way to get oxygen into your system through your lungs. Have you ever experienced a time when you feel as if you can't breathe and need to take a deep breath but even with a deep breath, you still feel like you are not getting enough oxygen? If so, you may have dyspnea.

What is dyspnea?

A disruption in your regular breathing patterns can be alarming. Feeling as though you can’t take a deep breath is known in the medical community as dyspnea. Other ways to describe this symptom are hunger for air, shortness of breath, and chest tightening. Dyspnea is a symptom of many different health conditions, and it may come on rapidly or develop over time. Very strenuous exercise, extreme temperatures, obesity and higher altitude all can cause shortness of breath in a healthy person. Shortness of breath can range from mild and temporary to serious and long-lasting. It is sometimes difficult to diagnose and treat dyspnea because there can be many different causes.

All cases of dyspnea warrant a visit to the doctor to diagnose the underlying cause and determine the proper treatment. Severe dyspnea that occurs rapidly and affects your overall functioning requires immediate medical attention.

What are the signs of dyspnea?

Here are some common signs of dyspnea.

  • Out of breath

  • Tightness in your chest

  • Hungry for air (you might hear this called air hunger)

  • Unable to breathe deeply

  • Like you can’t breathe (suffocation)

It can be acute (sudden dyspnea) or chronic (long-lasting dyspnea). Acute dyspnea starts within a few minutes or hours. It can happen with other symptoms like a fever, rash, or cough. Chronic dyspnea can make you feel out of breath with everyday tasks, such as walking from room to room or standing up.

Sometimes, shortness of breath gets better or worse with certain body positions. For example, lying down flat can trigger shortness of breath in people who have certain types of heart and lung disease. Keeping track of your symptoms can help your doctor figure out what's wrong and recommend the best treatment.

How do you test for dyspnea?

The most useful methods of evaluating dyspnea are the electrocardiogram and chest radiographs. These initial modalities are inexpensive, safe and easily accomplished. They can help confirm or exclude many common diagnoses.

Before I start exploring for reasons, what can I do to help myself and to see if the symptoms go away? Try to breath correctly. And here are some suggestions to help you get started.

Am I breathing correctly?

1. Do you use your nose or mouth to breath?

There are two ways to breathe—through your mouth and your nose, but the nostrils filter, warm and humidify air in a way that the mouth cannot. So, unless you are doing high intensity physical activities or your sinus is congested, use your nose to breath.

2. Is your belly extended when you breath?

Humans are "belly breathers," and just above your stomach is a major muscle in the respiration process, the diaphragm. Proper breathing starts in the nose and then moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands and your lungs fill with air. "It is the most efficient way to breathe, as it pulls down on the lungs, creating negative pressure in the chest, resulting in air flowing into your lungs," says respiratory therapist Mark Courtney. 3. Is your mouth open or closed when you are breathing?

Pursed-lip breathing is when you press your lips together and inhale through the nose with your mouth closed. Especially, those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma or lung disease they must relearn to breathe with pursed-lip.

What else can I do to help myself?

Do maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise regularly. Eat a well-balanced diet. Keep your weight within the BMI range and if you are overweight, work towards getting your weight back to a healthy range. Avoid large meals, eat slowly and avoid food that causes you to bloat. Bloating prevent the abdomen from pushing up and it also limits the diaphragm's movement. For those with lung disease, learn some relaxation exercises to stay calm because it will help you avert hyperventilating. Pay attention to air quality in your area and monitor the level of irritants, pollution and allergens that can affect your breathing. Most importantly, do not overthink breathing. Remember that your body knows how to breathe and that it is designed to breathe. Our respiratory systems know exactly when to tell you to change your depth of breathing, depending on your activity. According to Mark Courtney, "Along with the kidneys, the lungs keep the blood's pH in a very tight range to allow all body functions to occur," he says. "There are receptors in our body that constantly monitor the blood's oxygen and pH levels. It automatically sends signals to our brain to tell us how often and how deep to breathe."

If you continue to have a problem with dsynea, please contact us for an appointment:


About the Author


Dr. Lennie Soo

Founder and Clinical Director of 360 Wellness Hub.

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