The best to truly understand why shortness of breath occurs is to determine what urges us to breathe in the first place. Some might think it is lack of oxygen, but in most circumstances, the cause is entirely different. Remember that there are two parts to breathing – ventilation and respiration. Any disruption to both can result to shortness of breath. There are various ways in which an individual becomes short of breath and the medical conditions that can result to each one.
Body requires more air
The increased demand for air more than what the body receives can lead to shortness of breath. The following are the usual causes of increased oxygen demand either the body needs to eliminate carbon dioxide or the body requires more oxygen:
- Heart attack
Once the body needs more air due to the increased demand, there is not much that can be done but to deal with the demand such as stop exercising or treating the shock. Supplemental oxygen can be given but it was discovered in studies that it can do more harm than good. Remember that it is not always the demand for air that causes issues, oftentimes it is the supply.
It is important to note that anything that reduces the airflow deep into the lungs can disrupt with the movement of oxygen into the bloodstream and removal of carbon dioxide.
There are certain conditions that can lead to limited airflow either causing the constriction of the airways due to inflammation or congestion from mucus or fluids:
- Asthma or COPD (inflammation of the airways)
- Pneumonia or CHF (congestion)
Take note that illnesses are not the only causes of limited airflow. Remember that the movement of air in and out of the lungs is a mechanical process, thus any damage to the lung structures and airways can reduce the amount of air that passes through. Injuries that cause limited airflow include broken ribs, penetrating chest wounds and paralysis.
Issues in the transportation of oxygen in the bloodstream
There are issues that prevent the bloodstream from adequately transporting oxygen from the lungs to the body cells which includes:
- Anemia or reduced number of red blood cells which are required for the transportation of oxygen
- Carbon monoxide poisoning which disrupts the ability of the red blood cells to hold onto the oxygen molecules
Lack of oxygen in the air
Oftentimes, there are no measures to help ease the shortness of breath experienced by the individual. It is important to note that areas with high altitude have thin air to provide sufficient amount of oxygen while the carbon dioxide present matches with what the body is exhaling. As a result, the body could not absorb oxygen or eliminate carbon dioxide.
There are various causes of shortness of breath. Depending on the exact cause, treatment of the underlying condition can help the individual.