Dyspnea is characterized by shortness of breath; it is often referred to as hunger for air. The severity of this condition can stretch from mild to severe and long-lasting, it is difficult to diagnose dyspnea because its symptoms are difficult to isolate and not link them to other possibilities.
Dr. Shoaib Alam is a pulmonologist based in Lahore. In this session with oladoc, he discusses Dyspnea, that is shortness of breath. He discusses various aspects starting from the causes to the diagnosis of dyspnea and treatment options available in Pakistan.
Q.1: What is the most common cause of dyspnea?
One of the most common causes observed in multiple cases of dyspnea is interstitial lung cancer-causing unexplained shortness of breath. The lungs get scarred resulting in fibrosis. Acute dyspnea can also occur due to asthma, anxiety, pneumonia, anemia and allergic reactions.
It is extremely difficult to diagnose it in normal tests, but developments have been introduced in the past 5 years.
Moreover, risk factors such as smoking, environmental triggers like chemical fumes, obesity, and strenuous exercise regimes should be avoided.
Q.2: At what stage should the patient consult a doctor for shortness of breath?
If a patient experiences consistent breathing difficulties, even after general diagnosis they should consult a specialist. Consultation is also recommended in cases of faintness and extreme weakness during exertion for example during gym or playing a sport, sudden onset of dyspnea, loss of ability to function properly due to shortness of breath, and persistent chest pain.
If the patient experiences lower oxygen levels due to an unexplained cause, consultation is strongly advised.
Q.3: What test should be done for dyspnea?
There are several different tests; in initial stages of consultation, a detailed physical examination is done. Patients sometimes have an already existing chest x-ray or an echo test which is helpful in dyspnea diagnosis. CT scan, pulmonary tests, general analysis of signs and symptoms is done by a specialist as well. An ECG (electrocardiogram) may be also done to show any signs of a heart attack or complications related to the heart.
Q.4: What are the advanced treatments available for dyspnea?
In recent years, thanks to advancements in this field several advance treatments have been uncovered. For example in severe cases, supplemental oxygen is given to the patient. Therapies are done for chronic dyspnea and the patient is taught exercises to breathe better.
When it occurs due to an infection or pneumonia, specialized antibiotics are prescribed for relief. Other treatments involving opiates, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and anti-anxiety drugs, can also be effective.
Q.5: How do I get immediate relief from dyspnea?
Since there are different types of dyspnea, relief treatments differ from patient to patient. In case of chronic dyspnea, self-medication is strongly discouraged because it further makes the situation complicated and may even pose problems with the treatment. Moreover, self-medication is unsafe and is likely to worsen the condition.
If you want to learn more about shortness of breath and related conditions, then watch the full interview.