What causes shortness of breath?

Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is commonly described as a feeling of suffocation or tightening of the chest. In healthy individuals, shortness of breath may be caused by anything from strenuous exercise to high altitude or extreme temperatures.

Outside of these examples, shortness of breath is likely related to conditions involving the heart or lungs. Since both of these organs are responsible for oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide removal, underlying conditions, such as asthma, low blood pressure, pneumonia, heart dysfunction, or even obesity, can have a serious affect on breathing.

Seek immediate medical attention if your shortness of breath impairs your ability to function or is accompanied by chest pain, nausea, or fainting.

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