Shortness of Breath or Dyspnea

Chest | Pulmonology | Shortness of Breath or Dyspnea (Symptom)


Dyspnea represents a distressful subjective sensation of uncomfortable breathing that may be caused by many disorders, including certain heart and respiratory conditions, strenuous exercise, or anxiety.

There are several types of dyspnea such as: orthopnea, paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, trepopnea, and platypnea.

Orthopnea: dyspnea exacerbated in a lying position and improved in a standing position: e. g. in heart failure, bilateral diaphragmatic paralysis, severe COPD.

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea: nocturnal dyspnea, relieved by the sitting position: e. g. heart failure, asthma or COPD.

Trepopnea: dyspnea occurring only in right or left lateral decubitus: e. g. with left main bronchus tumour, unilateral pleural effusion etc.

Platypnea: dyspnea occurring only in standing position: e. g. with hepatic disease, severe pulmonary fibrosis etc.


While shortness of breath is generally caused by disorders of the cardiac or respiratory system, other systems such as neurological, musculoskeletal, endocrine, hematologic, and psychiatric may be the cause.

Symptoms of dyspnea, include: difficult or laboured breathing, feeling of suffocation or smothering, inability to get enough air, tightness or pains in the chest. Many conditions can make you feel short of breath. Lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema or pneumonia cause breathing difficulties. So can problems with your trachea or bronchi. Heart disease can also give the feeling of shortness breath if your heart cannot pump enough blood to supply oxygen to your body. Stress caused by anxiety can also make it hard for you to breathe