If you are experiencing shortness of breath, it can be a terrifying experience. Various factors, including heart conditions, may cause shortness of breath. Breathlessness specialists at Reading Cardiology Associates offer innovative, cutting-edge technology for diagnostic testing to assess heart function and health concerning shortness of breath. For a comprehensive evaluation, call us or book an appointment online.

request an appointment

What Is Shortness of Breath?

Shortness of breath is medically known as dyspnea. This occurs when one is not getting enough oxygen, making breathing difficult. You may also experience an intense feeling or chest tightening when you cannot take a deep breath, have to breathe harder or have a sense of suffocation. Other symptoms include coughing, wheezing, heart palpitations, and shallow breathing. Various health conditions can cause shortness of breath. For a healthy person, the condition may be caused by high altitudes, extreme temperatures, and extreme strenuous exercises. Other causes of shortness of breath include:

  • Lung conditions such as lung cancer, pneumonia, or COVID 19
  • Panic, anxiety, or extreme stress
  • Obesity
  • Heart attack
  • High levels of pollution
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Allergic reaction
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Anemia 
  • Low blood pressure

Medical conditions such as asthma and heart conditions are common causes of shortness of breath, including:

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea: Shortness of breath that occurs during sleep and while you are laying flat and can cause you to wake up. 

Dyspnea on exertion: Shortness of breath during physical exertion. This can be a symptoms of lung disease or also be a symptoms of heart disease, including blockages around your heart (anginal equivalent).

If shortness of breath persists, it can lead to low oxygen levels in the blood, which can cause a life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical attention if you are concerned about your ability to breathe.

What Cardiac Conditions Cause Shortness of Breath?

Most people with heart conditions experience shortness of breath daily. The heart carries oxygen-rich blood to body parts. The heart may be affected by conditions that interfere with this crucial function leading to shortness of breath. Most causes of shortness of breath require medical attention, including:

  • Heart attack/ myocardial infraction
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Angina/ coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Pericarditis
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Mitral valve disease
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Aortic valve disease

Visit your cardiologist if you have heart health concerns. Heart disease symptoms vary widely and need a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose and treat the conditions. If you are experiencing unexplained shortness of breath, it may indicate an underlying problem with the function or structure of the heart. 

What Type of Testing Do I Need for Shortness of Breath?

Reading Cardiology Associates perform various comprehensive tests to evaluate heart function and health and diagnose heart conditions that cause shortness of breath. Some of the tests include the following: 

Physical Exam 
Your cardiologist may listen to your chest and take your temperature. If you have a fever, it may indicate an infection.

Echocardiogram Test 
The test uses ultrasound imaging to show the structure and function of the heart. A doppler echocardiogram allows your cardiologist to measure blood flow through your blood vessels and heart. The test detects heart muscle damage, heart valve disease, congestive heart defect, and other heart-related problems.

Stress Test
A stress test, also called an exercise electrocardiogram, treadmill test, graded exercise test, or stress EKG helps the cardiologist to see the heart’s and lung function when your heart is working hard to pump blood in all areas of the body. The test helps diagnose coronary artery disease, heart valve disorder or congestive heart failure.

Chest X-ray
A chest X-ray shows the cardiologists to see if your heart is in an unusual size or shape and check for signs of conditions such as pneumonia or heart and lung conditions. The test diagnoses heart failure or cardiomyopathy (heart enlargement). 

Lung Function Test
A lung function test, also known as a pulmonary function test, is a noninvasive test used to indicate how well your lungs and airways work. The test helps diagnose various conditions such as asthma, respiratory infections, and chronic bronchitis.

Blood Tests
Your doctor may order a blood test to determine whether you have anaemia, infections, or other medical conditions.

Oxygen Test
An oxygen test is called pulse oximetry which helps your cardiologist measure the amount of oxygen in your blood. The test helps diagnose or monitor lung disease.

How Is Shortness of Breath Treated?

Treatment starts by identifying the underlying cause of your shortness of breath. If the specific cause is identified, your doctor may recommend medications that treat the problem’s underlying cause. 

Your doctor may also recommend pulmonary rehabilitation to teach you ways to manage to breathe and improve the overall quality of health. Oxygen may be given for severe breathing problems. Your doctor may also recommend cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to find ways of coping with stress.

How Can I Relieve Shortness of Breath?

To relieve or prevent shortness of breath, you can:

  • Reduce and maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid inhaling chemicals and fumes from cars or paint
  • Avoid activities or chores in scorching, humid, or cold temperatures
  • Practice breathing and relaxation techniques to improve breathing function
  • Pursed lip breathing
  • Used a fan to reduce the sensation of breathlessness
  • Inhale steam with a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil
  • Stand or lie in a comfortable sitting or standing position
  • Take black coffee to reduce the tightness in the airway 
  • Open windows for fresh air
  • Eat in moderation

When should I call my doctor about the shortness of breath?

Contact your healthcare provider if you have severe shortness of breath or if it is interfering with your daily activities. Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you have:

  • High fever with chills and a cough
  • Irregular heartbeat (Heart palpitations)
  • Sweating and nausea associated with chest pain
  • Swollen feet or ankles 
  • Blue lips or fingers
  • Difficulty breathing while lying flat 
  • Wheezing when breathing out or high-pitched sound when breathing in

The Reading Cardiology Associates experts are glad to help if you are struggling with shortness of breath. Contact us or schedule an appointment online today.