Breath is the essence of life. Any difficulty with breathing is fearsome. Rapid or difficult breathing following an exercise is common and non-threatening. On the other hand, breathlessness can indicate the presence of a disease of the lungs, heart, blood or other organ systems.
Important causes of breathing difficulty
Lung diseases causing breathlessness:
Cardiac failure due to any cause – hypertension, ischemic heart disease, valvular heart disease, cardio myopathies
It is important to find out the cause of breathlessness for an effective management following an algorithmic approach. A number of investigations directed to look into the possible cause may be required for this purpose. A good clinical history is essential to suspect the origin of the symptom. Routine blood examination and chest x-ray which constitute the baseline tests are almost always required. Specialized tests are done following the lead on clinical history and baseline investigations.
Treatment of breathlessness essentially depends on the cause. There are no general drugs which can be used for all kinds of breathing difficulties. Sometimes one tends to use bronchodilators (both oral and inhalational) for non-specific management. Their use should however be limited to a short period before one arrives at a specific diagnosis.