Slow Breathing or Dyspnea

Chest | Pulmonology | Slow Breathing or Dyspnea (Symptom)


Dyspnea is a sign of serious disease of the airway, lungs, or heart, difficult or labored breathing. Slow of breath has many causes affecting either the breathing passages and lungs or the heart or blood vessels. It is a normal symptom of heavy exertion but becomes pathological if it occurs in unexpected situations.

Symptoms of dyspnea can occur when a person is completely at rest as well as during periods of intense exercise. Although shortness of breath remains the primary symptom, the following symptoms may also accompany dyspnea: difficult or labored breathing, feeling of suffocation or smothering, inability to get enough air, tightness in the chest.


In 85% of cases it is due to asthma, pneumonia, cardiac ischemia, interstitial lung disease, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or psychogenic causes.

Lung causes include also: bronchitis, croup, emphysema, pleural effusion, lung cancer, and sarcoidosis. Heart problems like heart failure, heart attack, cardiomyopathy and percarditis are also cause of dyspnea. Other conditions are: anemia, obesity, broken ribs, lack of exercises, pregnancy or panic attack.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis includes the following tests: a complete blood count, an electrocardiogram (ECG), an evaluation of the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood, chest X-rays.

Treatment typically depends on the underlying cause. If these symptoms are present for less than 1 month, it is generally defined as acute dyspnea. Both chronic and acute dyspnea is common in patients with advanced stages of cancer, cystic fibrosis, HIV-AIDS, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, COPD, pregnancy and many other conditions.