Facing breathlessness? Everything you need to know about breathing difficulties

Do you have any breathing difficulties? Are you unable to understand what makes you breathless? Here are the common causes of breathlessness. Avoiding your breathing problems can become fatal if not treated at the right time.
Facing breathlessness? Everything you need to know about breathing difficulties
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Sudden onset Breathlessness can be an emergency even at home, while travelling to work, at the workplace, or near the office. One must be aware of how to recognise acute breathlessness if the patient is gasping or panting, or even grunting. These signs indicate that the patient is having some kind of respiratory distress or difficulty in breathing. A quick history of the patient as to what he/she was doing at that time. For example- the patient was sitting at the table and having is food then it is possible to choke owing to the foreign body intake. This requires immediate treatment. The conventional Heimlich manoeuvre is known as the first-aid procedure in order to treat upper airway obstructions or choking due to foreign objects. This will help to forcefully expel the foreign body from the trachea or the larynx.

List of other common breathing problems
Some of the other common problems that patients have are acute exacerbation of bronchial asthma. Here, if one gets the quick idea that the patient was a known asthmatic and has been on various inhalers for some time. One can presume safely that the patient has an acute exacerbation of bronchial asthma and appropriate treatment towards nebulizing him with the solutions using a repeated. A metered-dose inhaler (MDI) and respiratory solutions can help the patient breathe and get relief from asthma.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is another common problem due to pollution and particularly could be pollution-related or tobacco-related. Thus, one having a brief history of chronic bronchitis will be helpful for the treating doctor. Even the habits of the patients like if one smoke then that will help to understand the cause of sudden onset breathlessness. If one has a fever or yellow or green sputum production in the last few days then it is an acute exacerbation infection of COPD. This will be treated with oxygen, bronchodilators, and specific antibiotics.
 Needless to say, if any patients are chronically ill then one may also have to assess the need for ICU admission, intubation, and ventilation of these patients.

 Community exposed pneumonia is also commonly seen with acute onset of breathlessness. But, it is usually accompanied by fever for a few days, cough, and sputum.
 If the patient has an underlying cardiac disease like coronary artery disease or one who has undergone angioplasty in the past or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) then it is suspected that the cause of the acute onset of breathlessness could be a cardiac failure or congestive heart failure. If it is associated with pain and angina then it could be related to myocardial infarction or irregular or rapid pulse then it is a cardiac cause for acute onset of breathlessness.

In a known patient with cancer which has spread to the lung, the acute onset of breathlessness could be due to the progressively increasing malignant proliferation which can cause significant dyspnea (shortness of breath) and needs to be identified on an immediate basis. These are some of the common causes of breathlessness that one encounters.
Takeaway: Hence, one has to be aware and do the necessary monitoring, suspect the exact cause and treat appropriately. However, the best thing would be to rush the patient to the nearest medical facility where a trained medical expert is available to diagnose the problem and treat it in the appropriate way

About the author:  Dr Shyam Thampi, Senior Consultant Respiratory/ Pulmonary Medicine, ACI Cumballa Hill Hospital, Mumbai

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