Dyspnea simply means shortness of breath. Dyspnea on exertion, such as climbing several flights of stairs, can occur normally, but if it happens without strenuous activity, it may indicate other problems, especially in the heart or lungs.
Stress and anxiety, airway obstruction, pneumonia or other lung diseases, fluid buildup around the lungs or heart, coronary artery disease, heart dysfunction or infection, or lung damage may cause dyspnea. Breathing becomes uncomfortable, and people feel as though they cannot get enough air into their lungs no matter how hard they try.
Diagnosing and treating dyspnea is unique to each patient. Symptoms might worsen in certain positions, perhaps lying down, or during specific times, such as after several hours of sleep, or dyspnea may present in combination with other medical issues.
Breathing exercises or meditation can help with the anxiety that often accompanies dyspnea. A humidifier, supplemental oxygen, or incentive spirometer that improves lung function may be recommended. Light exercise can improve the flow of oxygen to the blood, and sleeping with the head elevated on extra pillows may make breathing easier at night.
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