Shortness of breath, or dyspnoea, can be very debilitating. There are, of course, many causes of breathlessness and the treatment of these symptoms requires careful investigation and management.
Causes of Shortness of Breath
There are many causes of shortness of breath, ranging from physical deconditioning and the presence of obesity, to more significant causes such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, lung disease or anaemia. Any reason that can impair blood delivering oxygen to the body’s tissues can cause breathlessness. If the problem is in the heart and it can’t deliver enough blood to the body, the condition is known as Heart Failure (HF), Congestive Cardiac Failure (CCF) or Left Ventricular Failure.
Other potential heart conditions that could be causing breathlessness include:
Problems with the heart’s blood supply (which may cause angina)
Heart Valve disease
Atrial Fibrillation (and other heart rhythm disorders)
High Blood Pressure
What will need to be done?
You will be asked about possible causes for breathlessness, including smoking and asthma. During the consultation you will be examined and then may need tests, including blood tests to rule out anaemia, an ECG and an Echocardiogram to exclude heart problems; also lung function tests to assess your respiratory function may be useful. You may need a chest X-ray. Most of these tests will be possible on the day of your consultation, so a management plan can be made to help you.