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Symptoms » Breathing difficulties

Breathing difficulties

Breathing difficulties: Introduction

Breathing difficulty can be a symptom of a variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases or conditions. Breathing difficulty is also called dyspnea and can result from infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, airway obstruction and other abnormal processes.

Breathing difficulty can occur in any age group or population. Breathing difficulty can result from a relatively mild condition that is easy to resolve, such as wearing restrictive clothing around the abdomen. Breathing difficulty can also accompany a moderate condition, such as hyperventilation or an anxiety attack.

Breathing difficulty combined with rapid breathing, more that about 16 breaths per minute for an adult, is called tachypnea. Tachypnea can be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening respiratory condition. These include pneumothorax, pneumonia acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, asthma, COPD, pulmonary embolism and pulmonary edema. Breathing difficulty can also occur just before respiratory arrest, in which breathing becomes completely ineffective or stops altogether. Breathing difficulty can also be a symptom of lung cancer.

In addition to the respiratory system, breathing difficulty can occur as a symptom of diseases, disorders and conditions of other body systems. For example, in the cardiovascular system, breathing difficulty can be a symptom of congestive heart failure or heart attack. In the nervous system breathing difficulty can be a symptom of a neuromuscular disorder, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, narcotic overdose or post-polio syndrome. Breathing difficulty can also result from an anaphylactic reaction.

Breathing difficulty can accompany shock. Breathing difficulty can also result from the pain of breathing due to fractured ribs or pleurisy. Breathing difficulty can also be due to a variety of traumatic causes, such as chest trauma that results in a collapsed lung or hemopneumothorax. Throat trauma can result in breathing difficulty due to a ruptured larynx.

Depending on the cause, breathing difficulty can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when breathing difficulty occurs during hyperventilation. Breathing difficulty can also occur in sudden, severe episodes, such as breathing difficulty that happens with sleep apnea or asthma. Breathing difficulty can also be chronic and ongoing over a long period of time, such as when it is due to COPD or lung cancer.

Breathing difficulty often occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other common symptoms include shortness of breath. Complications of breathing difficulty can include low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in the body. The underlying disorder, disease or condition can also cause complications. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of breathing difficulty.

Diagnosing breathing difficulty and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. This includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that the lungs make. Certain lung sounds point to some underlying causes of breathing difficulty. For example, wheezing may indicate asthma, and a bubbling sound may point to congestive heart failure or pneumonia.

A noninvasive test called a pulse oximetry is generally performed. This involves clipping a painless device to the fingertip, which can measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. An arterial blood gas test is a blood test that measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, as well as a number of other important markers of effective breathing.

Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose potential underlying diseases, conditions or disorders. Depending on the suspected cause, tests can include additional blood tests, culture and sensitivity tests, pulmonary function test, EKG, and imaging tests, such as chest X-ray, CT scan, nuclear scans, and MRI.

A diagnosis of breathing difficulty and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because breathing difficulty may be mild or intermittent and for other reasons. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of breathing difficulty.

Treatment of breathing difficulty involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of breathing difficulty....more »

Breathing difficulties: Breathing difficulty of any kind (or any kind of "shortness of breath") is a potentially life-threatening emergency. It can indicate numerous dangerous causes such as heart attack, pneumonia, or ...more »

Breathing difficulties: Misdiagnosis

Diagnosing breathing difficulty and its cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases, breathing difficulty may progress gradually, such as in COPD, or it may not be severe enough for a person to seek medical care. In other cases, a person may be unaware of breathing difficulty, such as in sleep apnea.

Breathing difficulty can be a sign of a serious ...more misdiagnosis »

Causes of Breathing difficulties:

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Breathing difficulties. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

» Review Causes of Breathing difficulties: Causes | Symptom Checker » | Assessment Questionnaire »

Common Causes of Breathing difficulties

Home Diagnostic Testing and Breathing difficulties

Home medical tests possibly related to Breathing difficulties:

Causes of Types of Breathing difficulties:

Review the causes of these more specific types of Breathing difficulties:

Review causes of types of Breathing difficulties in more specific categories:

Review causes of more specific types of Breathing difficulties:

Breathing difficulties: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Breathing difficulties, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

Symptom Checker

Symptom Checker

Breathing difficulties Treatments

Treatment plans for breathing difficulty are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, eases breathing, decreases the risk of developing serious complications, and helps a person to ...Breathing difficulties Treatments

Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Breathing difficulties may include:

Review further information on Breathing difficulties Treatments.

Stories from Users for Breathing difficulties

Real-life user stories relating to Breathing difficulties:

Message Boards for Breathing difficulties

Symptom specific forums: The following patient stories in our interactive forums and message boards relate to Breathing difficulties or relevant symptoms:

Diagnostic tests for Breathing difficulties:

Various tests are used in the diagnosis of Breathing difficulties. Some of these are listed below :

  • Physical examination
    • Blood pressure, pulse rate, temperature
    • Inspect for blueness of tongue and skin, reduced alertness and distress due to breathing problems
    • Lung examination to listen to breath sound quality , intensity and for added sounds. Crackles suggest congestive heart failure, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, lung fibrosis or bronchiectasis. Wheezes suggest asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema
    • Abdominal examination for enlarged liver which may be a sign of congestive heart failure
  • Blood tests
    • Full blood count to exclude anemia as cause of breathing difficulties and also to detect signs of infection, inflammation and asthma ( increased eosinophil cells)
  • more tests...»

Medications or substances causing Breathing difficulties:

The following drugs, medications, substances or toxins are some of the possible causes of Breathing difficulties as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

Drug interactions causing Breathing difficulties:

When combined, certain drugs, medications, substances or toxins may react causing Breathing difficulties as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

  • Zolpidem and benzodiazepine interaction
  • Ambien and benzodiazepine interaction
  • Zolpidem and diazepam interaction
  • Ambien and diazepam interaction
  • Dymelor and alcohol interaction
  • more interactions...»

Breathing difficulties: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Breathing difficulties may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:

Research the causes of related medical symptoms such as:

Causes of Similar Symptoms to Breathing difficulties

Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Breathing difficulties:

Assessment Questionnaire: Questions your doctor may ask (and why!)

During a consultation, your doctor will use various techniques to assess the symptom: Breathing difficulties. These will include a physical examination and possibly diagnostic tests. (Note: A physical exam is always done, diagnostic tests may or may not be performed depending on the suspected condition) Your doctor will ask several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to openly share any pertinent information to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

It is also very important to bring an up-to-date list of all of your all medical conditions, medications including dosages, and names of numbers of any specialist you see.

Create your printable checklist here.

See Breathing difficulties Assessment Questionnaire (22 listings)

Breathing difficulties: Deaths

Read more about causes and Breathing difficulties deaths.

Misdiagnosis and Breathing difficulties

Heart attack can be over-diagnosed: Although heart attack is often undiagnosed, leading to fatality, it can also be over-diagnosed. People become concerned that a condition is a heart attack, whereas there are various less dangerous possibilities. more »

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail to be diagnosed early. Some of the chronic lung more »

Breathing difficulties: Research Related Doctors & Specialists

Other ways to find a doctor, or use doctor, physician and specialist online research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Breathing difficulties

Research extensive quality ratings and patient safety measures for hospitals, clinics and medical facilities in health specialties related to Breathing difficulties:

Breathing difficulties: Related Rare Diseases

Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:

Breathing difficulties: Undiagnosed Conditions

Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:

Causes of Breathing difficulties listed in Disease Database:

Other medical conditions listed in the Disease Database as possible causes of Breathing difficulties as a symptom include:

Definitions of Breathing difficulties:

Labored or difficult breathing associated with a variety of disorders, indicating inadequate ventilation or low blood oxygen.
- (Source - Diseases Database)

Organs affected by Breathing difficulties:

The list of organs typically affected by Breathing difficulties may include, but is not limited to:

Detailed list of causes of Breathing difficulties

The list below shows some of the causes of Breathing difficulties mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Breathing difficulties?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Breathing difficulties. Of the 2922 causes of Breathing difficulties that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 27 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 31 causes are "common" diseases
  • 14 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 8 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 61 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 2839 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Breathing difficulties:

The following list of conditions have 'Breathing difficulties' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Breathing difficulties or choose View All.

View All A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #





Conditions listing medical complications: Breathing difficulties:

The following list of medical conditions have Breathing difficulties or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.























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Causes of Breathing difficulties Based on Risk Factors

This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Breathing difficulties based on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:

  • Travel - has the patient travelled recently?
  • Diabetes - history of diabetes or family history of diabetes?

    Doctors and specialists: Who should I consult about Breathing difficulties?

    Depending on the seriousness of the onset of Breathing difficulties, you may want to consult one of the following medical professionals.

    Important:In extreme cases, always seek advice from emergency services :

    What are the alternative names for Breathing difficulties:

    Dyspnoea, Respiration difficult, Respiratory distress, SOB, Shortness of breath, Breathlessness, DIB, Difficulty breathing
    - (Source - Diseases Database)

    Classifications of Breathing difficulties:

    Subtypes of Breathing difficulties:

    Wheezing (764 causes), Choking (130 causes), Rapid breathing (411 causes), Shallow breathing (163 causes), Shortness of breath (1528 causes), Shortness of breath from exercise (1320 causes), Orthopnea (42 causes), Irregular breathing (28 causes), ARDS (39 causes), Difficulty breathing when lying down (30 causes), Wheezing on exertion (1 cause), Accessory muscle use (14 causes), Acute Dyspnoea (8 causes), Apneustic respirations (7 causes), Bradypnea (45 causes), Chest expansion, asymmetrical (13 causes), Cheyne-Stokes Respiration (33 causes), Expiratory wheeze (19 causes), Nasal flaring (51 causes), Nocturnal dyspnoea (8 causes), Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnoea (10 causes), Respirations, grunting (5 causes), Respirations, shallow (7 causes), Respirations, stertorous (5 causes), Retractions, costal and sternal (11 causes), Asthma-like reaction (2 causes), Hyperpnea (11 causes), Hypoventilation (61 causes), Breathlessness on exertion (30 causes), Asphyxiation (3 causes), Suffocation (4 causes), Stridor (695 causes), stertorous breathing (31 causes)

    Medical Conditions associated with Breathing difficulties:

    Breathing symptoms (3381 causes), Breath symptoms (3023 causes), Respiratory symptoms (5166 causes), Lung symptoms (3280 causes), Respiratory tract symptoms (5166 causes), Throat symptoms (3410 causes), Mouth symptoms (6864 causes), Head symptoms (10192 causes), Face symptoms (8109 causes)

    Symptoms related to Breathing difficulties:

    Wheezing (764 causes), Choking (130 causes), Shortness of breath (1528 causes), Chest pain (1053 causes), Difficulty breathing (2922 causes), Hyperventilation (92 causes), Lung symptoms (3280 causes), Chest symptoms (1355 causes), Adult respiratory distress syndrome (54 causes), Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Aspiration of a foreign body, Asthma (320 causes), Cor pulmonale (61 causes), Emphysema, Flail chest (9 causes), Heart failure (274 causes), Myasthenia gravis

    Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

    Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

    These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Medical News summaries about Breathing difficulties

    Our news pages contain the following medical news summaries about Breathing difficulties and many other medical conditions:

    Evidence Based Medicine Research for Breathing difficulties

    Medical research papers related to Breathing difficulties include:

    Research More Evidence-Based Medicine at

    Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Breathing difficulty:

    More Ways To Research Medical Signs and Symptoms:


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