Shortness of Breath

Internal Medicine, Physical Therapy, Pediatrics & Pulmonology located in San Antonio, TX

Shortness of breath is a frequent and distressing symptom of heart and lung disorders as well as anxiety and panic attacks. At San Antonio Premier Internal Medicine in Texas, the highly skilled medical team uses their knowledge, experience, and advanced testing to diagnose the cause of your breathing difficulties. To find out why you’re experiencing shortness of breath and to get effective treatment, call one of the practice’s three San Antonio offices or book an appointment online today.

What is shortness of breath?

Shortness of breath (medical name: dyspnea) is the inability to get enough air in your lungs. It’s different from the out-of-breath feeling you experience after vigorous exercise, which soon passes after taking some deep breaths. Shortness of breath occurs when your lungs can’t expand properly, or you can’t extract enough oxygen from the air you’re inhaling.

Shortness of breath is often a heart or lung disorder symptom. Your heart takes oxygen from your lungs to circulate in your blood, and your lungs expel unwanted carbon dioxide. The heart and lungs depend on each other to function correctly, so a problem with one or both systems can result in shortness of breath.

What conditions might cause shortness of breath?

Heart and lung disorders that cause shortness of breath include:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease)
  • Pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding your heart)
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Pneumonia
  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung)
  • Pleurisy (inflamed lung membrane)
  • Pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs)
  • Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lung arteries)
  • COVID-19
  • Tuberculosis (TB)

Sudden shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain could indicate a heart attack. You may also develop shortness of breath if you suffer a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) or have a panic attack.

How is shortness of breath diagnosed?

To diagnose shortness of breath, your doctor at San Antonio Premier Internal Medicine reviews your medical history and symptoms. They perform a physical exam, check your pulse and blood pressure, and listen to your heart sounds.

Your doctor can take blood for lab testing and perform an in-office electrocardiogram (EKG) to measure the electrical activity in your heart. They might send you for an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI to get a detailed picture of your heart and lungs.

If these procedures don’t provide enough information, your doctor might recommend specialized testing. For example, if they want more detailed information about your heart function, you might need to undergo cardiac stress testing or have an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound).

After all your test results come back, your doctor at San Antonio Premier Internal Medicine prepares a personalized treatment plan for you.  

How is shortness of breath treated?

Shortness of breath treatments vary according to the cause of your symptoms. You might need medications like antibiotics for a bacterial infection or beta-blockers to regulate your heartbeat. If you have a lung disorder like asthma or COPD, your doctor might prescribe drugs that open your airways, reduce inflammation, and help you breathe more easily.

To find out what’s causing your shortness of breath and to receive prompt treatment, call San Antonio Premier Internal Medicine today or book an appointment online.