Shortness of Breath on Exertion
Many people experience feel short of breath during strenuous activity if they are not accustomed to exercise. If you have a sudden onset of di...

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Definition

Shortness of breath on exertion is a problem that describes having difficulty breathing when engaged in a simple activity such as walking up stairs..

Alternative Names

Breathlessness on exertion, exertional dyspnea, dyspnea on effort, exertional breathlessness, short of breath with activity, SOBOE, dyspnea on exertion, DOE.

Synopsis

Many people experience feel short of breath during strenuous activity if they are not accustomed to exercise. If you have a sudden onset of difficulty breathing doing a normal routine, it may be a medical emergency. Shortness of breath on exertion is a sign that your lungs are not allowing enough oxygenation/ventilation (expiration of carbon dioxide) – this is an important warning sign. Shortness of breath occurs as a result of the interaction of many factors – physical, psychological, environmental, and social. Dyspnea on exertion is one of the most common reasons for people to request evaluation for disability impairment rating based on respiratory illness.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Heart failure ( congestive heart failure, CHF)
  • Asthma
  • Poor physical conditioning
  • Late-stage pregnancy
  • Anemia
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Intersitial fibrosis
  • Tumor
  • Obesity
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease

Diagnosis and Treatments

A complete and thorough history and physical by a qualified provider to assess and treat any underlying condition. Additional diagnostic studies may include chest x-rays, CT scan, exercise testing and exercise tolerance testing, pulmonary function studies and laboratory studies. Treatment will depend on the findings.

Call your provider :

When shortness of breath on exertion limits your activities of daily living.

Call 911:

For any sudden onset of feeling short of breath, especially if accompanied by:

  • Air hunger
  • Gasping for breath
  • Choking
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Passing out or fainting
  • Sweating profusely
  • Pallor (pale skin)
  • Cyanosis (skin turns blue)
  • Dizziness
  • Coughing up blood
  • Swelling in the legs or ankles

Written by: JC Jones MA, RN
Reviewed by: Paul Auerbach, MD
Written: September 8, 2007
Last Updated: September 30, 2007
Published By: Healthline Networks Inc.
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