Today is which is a good time to start getting all the facts for your Breathing Cure. There are many types of breathing problems and diseases. Some of the breathing problems and diseases have cures and others you have to manage to live with.
Rapid Shallow Breathing
A normal breathing rate for an adult at rest is 8 to 16-breaths per minute. For an infant, a normal rate is up to 44-breaths per minute. Tachypnea is the medical term that your doctor uses to describe your breathing if it is too fast, particularly if you have rapid, shallow breathing due to an associated lung disease or other medical cause.
In contrast, the term hyperventilation is usually used if you are taking rapid, deep breaths because of anxiety or panic. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Causes of Rapid Shallow Breathing
Shallow, rapid breathing has many potential medical causes. A partial list includes:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - known as COPD
- Chest pain
- Pneumonia or other lung infection
- Pulmonary embolism
- Transient tachypnea of the newborn
Home Care for Rapid Shallow Breathing
Rapid, shallow breathing should not be treated at home and is generally considered a medical emergency.
If you have asthma or COPD, then use your inhaler medications as prescribed by your doctor. You may still need to be checked by a health care provider right away. Your doctor will explain when it is important to go to the emergency room.
When to Contact a Medical Professional if you experience Rapid Shallow Breathing
Call your doctor right away or go to the emergency room if you are breathing rapidly, especially if you have:
- Chest pain
- Never had rapid breathing before
- Shortness of breath
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
The health care provider will do a thorough exam of your heart, lungs, abdomen, and head and neck.
Tests that may be ordered include:
- Arterial blood gas and pulse oximetry to check your oxygen level
- Chest x-ray
- Complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistries
- Ventilation/perfusion scan of your lungs
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the rapid breathing. Treatment may include oxygen if your oxygen level is too low and nebulized respiratory treatments if you are having an asthma attack.
When you're short of breath, it's hard or uncomfortable for you to take in the oxygen your body needs. You may feel as if you're not getting enough air. Sometimes mild breathing problems are from a stuffy nose or hard exercise. But shortness of breath can also be a sign of a serious disease.
Many conditions can make you feel short of breath. Lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema or pneumonia cause breathing difficulties. Heart disease can make you feel breathless 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. If you often have trouble breathing, it is important to find out the cause.
When you breathe, your lungs take in oxygen from the air and deliver it to the bloodstream. The cells in your body need oxygen to work and grow. During a normal day, you breathe nearly 25,000 times. People with lung disease have difficulty breathing. Millions of people in the U.S. have lung disease. If all types of lung disease are lumped together, it is the number three killer in the United States.
The term lung disease refers to many disorders affecting the lungs, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung infections like influenza, pneumonia and tuberculosis plus lung cancer and other breathing issues and problems.
Breathing difficulty involves a sensation of difficult or uncomfortable breathing or a feeling of not getting enough air.
No standard definition exists for difficulty breathing. Some people may feel breathless with only mild exercise (for example, climbing stairs), even though they do not have a specific disorder. Others may have advanced lung disease but never feel short of breath.
Wheezing is one form of breathing difficulty.
- Lung diseases
- Rapid breathing
Causes of Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath has many different causes.
- A blockage of the air passages in your nose, mouth, or throat may lead to difficulty breathing.
- Heart disease can cause breathlessness if your heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply oxygen to your body. If your brain, muscles, or other body organs do not receive enough oxygen, a sense of breathlessness may occur.
- Sometimes emotional distress, such as anxiety, can lead to difficulty breathing.
The following problems may cause breathing difficulty:
Problems with the lungs
- Pneumonia (severe)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and other chronic lung problems
- Blood clot in the arteries of the lungs ( pulmonary embolism)
- Pulmonary hypertension
Problems with the airways leading to the lungs
- Choking on something stuck in the airways
Problems with the heart
- Heart attack or angina
- Heart failure
- Heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias)
- Children born with heart defects ( congenital heart disease)
Other Breathing problems
- Rapid ascent to high altitudes, where there is less oxygen in the air
- A large amount of dust in the environment
- Allergies (such as to mold, dander, or pollen)
- Lack of exercise
- Compression of the chest wall
- Panic attacks
- Hiatial hernia
Home Care for Breathing Problems
In some circumstances, a small degree of breathing difficulty may be normal. Severe nasal congestion is one example. Strenuous exercise, especially when you do not exercise regularly, is another example.
If difficulty breathing is new or is getting worse, this may indicate a serious problem. Though many causes are harmless and easily corrected, any breathing difficulty requires that you contact your health care provider.
If your doctor has been treating you for a long-term problem with your lungs or heart, follow your health care provider's directions to help with that problem. (asthma, COPD, heart failure)
When to Contact a Medical Professional for Breathing Problems
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if:
- Breathing difficulty comes on suddenly or seriously interferes with your breathing
- Someone completely stops breathing
See your health care provider if breathing difficulty starts suddenly or is severe, or if any of the following occur with breathing difficulties:
- Chest discomfort, pain, or pressure
- Shortness of breath after only slight exertion or while at rest
- Shortness of breath that wakes you up at night or requires you to sleep propped up to aid breathing
- Having inhaled or choked on an object (foreign object aspiration or ingestion)
- Tightness in the throat or a barking, croupy cough
- Development of a fever or significant cough
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your health care provider will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination.
You may be asked the following medical history questions:
- Do you notice shortness of breath?
- Do you make grunting sounds while breathing?
- Do you have to work hard to breathe?
- How long have you had breathing difficulty?
- Did it slowly progress over weeks to months?
- Did it begin recently?
- Did it begin suddenly?
- Did it come on slowly (gradual onset)?
- Is there a sequence of separate occurrences (episodes)? How long does each last, and does each episode have a similar pattern?
- Has the breathing difficulty worsened recently?
- Does breathing difficulty cause you to wake up at night (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea)?
- Does the amount of breathing difficulty change (variable over hours)?
- Does breathing difficulty occur at rest?
- How long does each episode last?
- Is it worse when you lie flat (orthopnea)?
- Is it worse when you change body position?
- Did it develop within 4 to 6-hours after exposure to something that you are or may be allergic to (antigen)?
- Is it worse after exercise?
- Does shortness of breath occur only when you are wheezing?
- Is your breathing pattern irregular?
- Do you draw back the chest muscles with breathing (intercostal retractions)?
- What other symptoms do you have?
The physical examination will include a thorough check of your lungs, heart, and upper airway passages.
Tests that may be performed include the following:
- Blood tests (may include arterial blood gases)
- Measurement of blood oxygen saturation (pulse oximetry)
- X-ray of the chest
- Pulmonary function tests
- Exercise testing
- CT scan of the chest
- Echo cardiogram
In severe cases of difficulty breathing, hospitalization may be required. Many different medications aimed at treating the cause of breathing difficulty may be used.
If your blood oxygen level is very low, you may need to receive oxygen. High doses of supplemental oxygen may be hazardous for some patients, however. Oxygen is not necessary in all cases of shortness of breath.
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