Breathing problems and shortness of breath

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Breathing problems and shortness of breath

“You never think much about breathing until it is all you ever think about” Tim Winton

What is shortness of breath?

Shortness of breath or “dyspnoea” is a term used to describe the experience of breathing discomfort. It may occur only during exercise or sometimes even at rest. Shortness of breath can reduce your exercise tolerance and limit the activities you are able to do. The sensation of breathlessness can be very distressing and anxiety provoking. 

What causes shortness of breath?

Shortness of breath has many causes. Some are related to diseases of your lungs. Other causes include heart disease, or other medical disorders. Sometimes, shortness of breath can be due to poor breathing patterns, anxiety or poor fitness. Lung diseases which cause shortness of breath include asthma, emphysema, COPD and pulmonary fibrosis. There are also less common lung diseases which may cause you to be short of breath. These include pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs),  bronchiectasis or lung cancer. Heart diseases including heart failure, ischaemic heart disease or in some cases, heart attack can cause shortness of breath. Other medical problems which may cause or contribute to your breathing problem include anaemia (low blood count), obesity or poor fitness. 

When to seek help?

The feeling of being short of breath can be very frightening. It may indicate a serious underlying lung or heart condition, so anyone with a breathing problem should seek help from their doctor. 

How we can help you

Our specialists at Lung and Sleep are experienced in helping identify the cause for your breathing difficulty. Sometimes the cause for your shortness of breath requires specialised assessment and tests to be performed. 

Tests that may be required include:

  1. Pulmonary function test
  2. Blood tests
  3. Chest X-Ray or CT scan
  4. Exercise test
  5. Bronchoscopy where a small camera looks on the inside of your lungs

If there is an underlying lung disease causing your shortness of breath, our specialists are able to ensure that you are on the optimal treatment and management plan. We have access to the newest technology and latest treatments for various lung diseases. Our goal is to improve your quality of life as much as possible through optimising your lung health and allowing you to breathe better. We will work closely with your General Practitioner and Allied Health team to ensure you are well supported on this journey.

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