Equip yourself. Learn about dyspnea.


Dyspnea is a medical symptom in which the patient feels breathlessness. It is subjective in nature. Another name that the symptom goes by, which is used at times on this page to refer to it, is shortness of breath (SOB). Although intense levels of exertion can usually lead to dyspnea, it may point to a problem if it shows up in a circumstance where it would not normally be expected. This may mean that there is an underlying medical problem that is leading to the shortness of breath. Some studies suggest that, overall, up to 27 percent of the population may have SOB.


There are many medical conditions and other situations that can cause a patient to experience dyspnea. The items mentioned on this page do not make up a comprehensive list. Please keep in mind that a person could be feeling shortness of breath for a reason other than one of these.

Acute coronary syndrome
Cardiac ischemia
Cardiac tamponade
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Heart attack
Heart failure
Interstitial lung disease
Panic attacks
Pulmonary embolism


A doctor or medical professional is involved in the diagnosis of a case of dyspnea and its underlying cause. Various checks including the airway, the patient's breathing, and circulation, may be used. Other physical examination steps may be taken, and the individual's medical history might be looked into. Some medical signs may indicate severity. Different scales are used to rate the level of breathlessness being experienced by the patient. Both blood tests and imaging (X-ray and CT scan) can be used to try to look for the medical reason for the situation.


Often, the treatment given is aimed at the medical condition that has led to the dyspnea. In some situations treatment is also given to relieve some of the shortness of breath. The information on this page is not meant to be used to replace or overrule professional medical advice. If you have been given such advice, please follow it; if not, and you need it, then please look for it rather than relying on the details found on this page.