What is Dyspnea?
The average adult breathes in and out up to 20 times per minute. Dyspnea is the feeling you get when you can’t get enough air into your lungs or can’t catch your breath.
Dyspnea may be a warning sign of a potential health issue that requires treatment. Dyspnea can also be chronic condition that is most often associated with some form of lung disease.
Let’s take a look at how you can recognize dyspnea and take proper action.
Symptoms of Dyspnea
Some symptoms of dyspnea may include:
- Hungry for air
- A feeling of tightness in your chest
- Feeling breathless
- Feeling unable to take a deep breath
Causes of Dyspnea
If you are doing an activity such as running or hiking at a high elevation, you may experience a temporary case of shortness of breath but then soon return to your normal breathing pattern. But you can also experience dyspnea suddenly in cases of an injury that harms your lungs or if an object gets lodged in your throat.
Some causes of dyspnea may include:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Anxiety and stress
- Allergic reaction
- Blood clot in the lungs
- Low blood pressure
- Heart failure
If you experience dyspnea for more than four weeks, it is considered chronic.
Causes of chronic dyspnea may include:
- Auto-immune illness
- Heart disease
- Scarring of the lung tissue or lung disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Dyspnea Treatment at Home
There are some techniques that you can use at home for dyspnea treatment. Some researchers have found that using a fan can help relieve dyspnea when it is pointed toward your face.
Another study suggests that drinking coffee can help relax the muscles of the airway to alleviate shortness of breath for up to four hours.
Other dyspnea treatment home remedies include:
Diaphragmatic breathing – In a sitting position, relax your shoulders, neck, and head. Then place your hand over your belly button. Breath in slowly through your nose and feel your belly move. As you breathe out through your mouth, tighten the muscles in your belly and purse your lips. Focus more on your exhale than your inhale and keep you exhale a bit longer. Do this for about five minutes.
Find a relaxed sleeping position – Many people experience dyspnea while they sleep. Consider lying on your side with your head elevated and use a pillow between your legs. You can try lying on your back with your knees bent and your head elevated with a pillow. You may want to consider seeing a medical professional to assess you for sleep apnea and get a CPAP machine to help you sleep better.
Stand with supported back – Stand with your back near a wall and rest your hips against the wall. Rest your hands on your thighs and put your feet shoulder width apart. Relax your shoulders and lean forward slightly. Then dangle your arms loosely in front of you as you slowly inhale and exhale.
Dyspnea Treatment and Diagnosis
If you are suffering from dyspnea, it is important to get prompt treatment and diagnosis. The first step is to set up an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will likely ask you several questions about your medical history, such as when your dyspnea gets worse or better and whether you have any other symptoms like chest pain, cough, or dizziness. Your doctor will probably also listen to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope.
Dyspnea treatment depends on the duration and cause of your symptoms. Tests like an echocardiogram, chest scan, pulmonary function test, and blood test may be ordered. Some people may require further testing such as a CT scan or a cardiopulmonary exercise test.
If your lungs or airway is affected, it is likely that you will prescribed a bronchodilator to relax your airways. If you have anemia, you may be prescribed an iron supplement. Other treatment might include the use of oxygen or enrollment in a pulmonary rehabilitation program.
Think you may be experiencing symptoms of dyspnea? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get a prescription today.