Do you often feel breathless and wonder what is causing it? That sensation can be alarming, especially when you are unsure of the origin. Shortness of breath can be a symptom of numerous medical conditions, making it difficult for those experiencing it to know where to start. Fortunately, tests are available to diagnose the cause of shortness of breath. By understanding the type of tests that doctors have at their disposal, you will be equipped with knowledge about your condition, allowing you to take steps towards finding relief from potential lung problems or other underlying health issues.
What causes shortness of breath?
While shortness of breath can be a minor issue, there are also multiple reasons to take these symptoms seriously. Research shows “that shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is a common symptom affecting as many as 25% of patients seen in the ambulatory setting. It can arise from many different underlying conditions and is sometimes a manifestation of a life-threatening disease.”
Shortness of breath can feel like one can’t “catch” their breath, tightness in the chest, pressure on the chest, and even the sensation of suffocation, which can be terrifying.
Some common reasons why an individual may have difficulty breathing include, but are not limited to, are:
- Allergic reaction
- Panic attacks
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Fluid in the lung
- Blood clot in the lung
While shortness of breath can simply boil down to stress and anxiety or a bout of asthma for some people, others might have a severe underlying condition. This reason makes it imperative that people with shortness of breath see a pulmonologist to run some tests.
Diagnosing the cause of shortness of breath:
Four primary tests are available for shortness of breath, although other ones exist.
Pulmonary function testing is a broad category that includes the standard spirometry test, lung volume test, diffusing capacity test, and exercise test. These tests identify how much air the lungs can hold, how forcefully the patient can blow air back out, and how easily oxygen enters the bloodstream from the lungs.
To diagnose the primary cause for shortness of breath, chest X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs are available, giving a clear, thorough image of what’s happening inside and around the lungs.
Anemia and heart failure are common causes of shortness of breath, and blood tests can help diagnose patients with these issues. The blood tests are brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), cardiac troponins, and D-dimer.
Physicians order one of three types of echocardiograms to diagnose heart and lung-related conditions. The transthoracic, transesophageal, and exercise stress echocardiograms are available depending on the patient’s symptoms.
Thankfully, diagnostic technology has come a long way, and several tests are available for patients with shortness of breath.
If you experience shortness of breath, don’t panic, and certainly don’t try to self-diagnose. Instead, reach out to the pulmonologists at Gwinnett Pulmonary and Sleep. They will ask you about your health history and perform a series of tests to determine your problem’s root cause. Once they have a diagnosis, they can develop a treatment plan that will help you breathe easier again – both figuratively and literally. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.