Finding yourself short of breath for long periods at a time can be frightening, but it is not always a cause for alarm. There are a lot of benign medical conditions that can cause shortness of breath or dyspnea, but there are some serious ones as well. This is why it is always important to see a doctor if you have shortness of breath that persists for longer than a day or is unusual for you. The following are a few of the most common causes of suddenly developing shortness of breath.


One of the most common causes of shortness of breath is asthma. Asthma is a condition that causes your airways to narrow and create mucus. The result is that you will struggle with breathing and often suffer from wheezing and coughing along with shortness of breath. Some people only have occasional issues with asthma, while others suffer from constant shortness of breath that needs treatment with medications. Asthma can also change over time, so it is best to work with a doctor to monitor asthma once it is diagnosed.




Blood Clot in Your Lungs

A blood clot in your lungs, also known as a pulmonary embolism, is a very serious condition in which a blood clot travels to the lungs from another part of the body. The clot blocks the blood flow making it impossible to breathe. If you have a blood clot in your lungs, you will immediately suffer from shortness of breath that is very severe in most cases. Prompt treatment can mean the difference between life and death, so if you have any suspicions, it is important you seek out emergency care right away.




Allergic Reaction

A severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can also cause severe shortness of breath. Most people who have an allergic reaction will feel short of breath immediately, although in some cases there can be late-onset symptoms. Anaphylaxis is an emergency situation, so you need to seek medical help right away and administer an epi-pen injection if you carry one. Some people develop allergies later in life, so just because you have never reacted before to food items or bee stings does not mean that you cannot have a reaction in the future.





Pregnancy is a very common cause of shortness of breath as the heart has to adjust to carrying twice the volume of blood. Being pregnant is very hard on the body, and as the pregnancy continues more stress is added to the body. Many women in their second and third trimesters experience shortness of breath and have to take it easy. Pregnancy can also cause other latent health issues to become more serious such as anemia and certain heart conditions. Therefore, it is always best to let your health practitioner know if you experience shortness of breath during pregnancy.





Pneumonia is a type of infection that affects the lungs. It causes the air sacs to become inflamed which then may fill with pus or fluid causing a vicious cough, shortness of breath, chills, and fever. Depending on the stage of pneumonia, it can be serious or mild, so it is always important to talk to a health professional. There are also other infections that can form in the lungs that can cause similar symptoms, so once again, consulting a doctor is important if you suffer from shortness of breath. Bronchitis and whooping cough are just a few of the many infections to be concerned about.




Heart Attack or Heart Failure

Many people who suffer a heart attack will feel the acute onset of shortness of breath. This is because a heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. This disrupts the flow of blood to the lungs as a result and makes breathing incredibly difficult. Congestive heart failure also disrupts the flow of blood which can also result in shortness of breath although in the case of heart failure it is usually more of a chronic issue. Both issues should be taken seriously, and immediate health care is recommended.




Collapsed Lung

A collapsed lung, medically referred to as a pneumothorax, is usually caused as the result of a traumatic accident, but it can also be caused by certain lung diseases such as pneumonia, a blocked airway, or following surgery on the abdomen or chest area. If only a small portion of the long collapses you may not feel immediate symptoms, but if a larger portion collapses then you may find it hard to breathe and experience a rapid heartbeat.





COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a chronic condition that can block airflow from properly coming in and out of the lungs. The inflammatory disease can be caused by exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoking, exposure to certain gases, or severe allergies. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, and mucus production. If not treated adequately COPD can become more serious over time and increase a person’s chance of developing lung cancer, heart disease, and many other lung diseases.





When a person becomes obese the body, and inner organs become encased in an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity is linked to many health problems, and one of these can be shortness of breath as the extra weight makes it harder for your lungs to produce enough oxygen to support your body. There are many causes of obesity, but simply changing your diet and exercising more can help relieve some of the strain on your body thus making it easier to breathe.





Anemia occurs when there is a shortage of healthy red blood cells in your blood. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues in your body, so when you do not have enough in your bloodstream, you can often experience symptoms like fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, chest pain, and an irregular heartbeat. There are many different causes of anemia, and some are acute while others are chronic. It is best to see a doctor to treat anemia before symptoms become more life-threatening.

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