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Why Am I Suddenly Breathless?

Posted by Ethanngo1636781 on 06 Jan, 2017

Although it's normal to feel breathless when you've pushed yourself too much during exercise, sudden breathlessness, particularly at rest, is often a symptom of a medical condition. Sudden shortness of breath is one of the most common reasons people go to the emergency room. While you should never self-diagnose breathlessness and you should always seek medical advice regarding shortness of breath, this article may help provide guidance pertaining to the cause of your breathing difficulties.


If you have asthma, suddenly feeling breathless could signal an asthma attack. When your airways narrow and produce more mucus, you cough and wheeze and, as it's more difficult for air to move through your airways. Your doctor may adjust your asthma medication to reduce your risk of subsequent attacks. Alternatively, if your sudden breathing difficulties are accompanied by a cough or flu-like symptoms and chest pain, you may have pneumonia which generally requires antibiotic treatment.

Another respiratory cause of sudden breathlessness is worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which can occur due to an infection or exposure to irritants or allergens in the air. Treatment for exacerbation of COPD will depend on the cause.  Rarely, a collapsed lung or a blood clot in your lung may cause a sudden onset of breathing problems. 


It's possible to have a heart attack in the absence of chest pain, and sudden breathlessness is a possible symptom of a heart attack. Other symptoms of a silent heart attack include pain in your jaw, neck, arm, back or abdomen, as well as dizziness, sweating, nausea and anxiety. If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 911 without delay.  

If your cardiac muscle is unable to function properly, you cannot effectively supply blood throughout your body, which is known as heart failure. Breathlessness occurs in heart failure, as water accumulates in your lungs, making it more difficult to breathe. Treatment for heart failure may include a combination of changes to your lifestyle, medications and surgery.  

Sometimes your heart can beat too fast or irregularly, which can bring on breathlessness all of a sudden. Again, drugs or surgery can treat this cause of shortness of breath. 


If you are anxious and suffer from panic attacks, your breathing can become more rapid and deeper, which makes you feel breathless. Focusing on slowing your breathing can resolve this reason for breathlessness, though receiving help to reduce your risk of subsequent panic attacks is advisable. 

When you seek medical help for shortness of breath, your healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and may arrange tests to help diagnose your breathlessness. Once you have a firm diagnosis of sudden breathing problems, you can start appropriate treatment to manage your symptoms and reduce your risk of complications.

Urgent Clinics Medical Care offers chest x-rays, EKG's, breathing treatments and steroid treatment if needed for many causes of shortness of breath. If a serious condition is suspected, such as a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) or a heart condition, the patient should be transported to the emergency room immediately. No appointment is necessary at any of our clinics which are open from 8 am to 9 pm daily and are conveniently located in Champions Forest, The Woodlands and 3 locations in League City: Creekside, Marina Bay and Tuscan Lakes. Our Pearland Clinic is open 8 am to midnight 7 days a week.


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