Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Evaluation Treatment specialist Home Care cough in adults cough in children warning signs wheezing Underlying Cause less serious potentially serious serious Anatomy

Breathing Difficulty Overview

What is breathing difficulty?
Breathing difficulty, or shortness of breath, is the feeling that the act of breathing requires more effort than usual. Breathing difficulty is a common symptom of heart or lung disease. Breathing difficulty may occur at rest, be associated with exertion, occur only when lying flat, or cause waking in the middle of the night. A situation that triggers breathing difficulty can provide an important clue to the underlying cause.

What are the symptoms of breathing difficulty?
There are several important signs of severe breathing difficulty such as rapid respiratory rate, wheezing, rib retractions, nasal flaring, cyanosis, and use of accessory muscles.

How does the doctor treat breathing difficulty?
Treatment for breathing difficulty depends on the underlying cause. Options include oxygen, antibiotics, diuretics, and bronchodilators to reverse wheezing.

Continue to Breathing Difficulty Evaluation

Last Updated: Aug 18, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Breathing Difficulty References
  1. Dosh SA. Diagnosis of heart failure in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Dec 1;70(11):2145-52. [1560606]
  2. Evans SE, Scanlon PD. Current practice in pulmonary function testing. Mayo Clin Proc. 2003 Jun;78(6):758-63. [12934788]
  3. Fedullo PF, Tapson VF. Clinical practice. The evaluation of suspected pulmonary embolism. N Engl J Med. 2003 Sep 25;349(13):1247-56. [14507950]
  4. Karnani NG, Reisfield GM, Wilson GR. Evaluation of chronic dyspnea. Am Fam Physician. 2005 Apr 15;71(8):1529-37. [15864893]
  5. Lee-Chiong T Jr, Matthay RA. Drug-induced pulmonary edema and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Clin Chest Med. 2004 Mar;25(1):95-104. [1506260]
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