Breathing Illnesses symptoms, causes and treatment

Diuretics are also called water pills. This medication is used to increase the amount of salt and water discharged from the body as urine. 

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Having difficulty while breathing is an uncomfortable feeling, and the experience is something like you are unable to breathe fully. This condition may occur either slowly or quickly, but situations like having minor breathing issues following an exercise or other physical activities are not part of having a breathing illness.

Several different reasons lead to difficulty in breathing, and among the possible causes may include anxiety and stress. But if you are experiencing recurring episodes of breathing difficulties, whether sudden and severe or shortness of breath, you should see your health care provider immediately so your health condition can be assessed appropriately. Having this condition may mean that you have other medical issues, so it is best to see your doctor if you have this kind of experience.

Causes of Breathing Illnesses

One of the potential causes of having difficulty in breathing is due to issues in the lungs, and under this category, several lung conditions can affect breathing. These usually need your doctor’s attention.


Asthma is a condition that is not very uncommon as there are a lot of people, both kids, and adults who have it. Its severity varies, and this condition involves having narrow and inflamed airways.

When you have asthma, the experience includes:


Pneumonia is a type of infection in the lungs that may result in the development of pus and fluid in the lungs as well as causing it to become inflamed. This can be a condition that is life-threatening if not treated early, which is why you need to see your doctor immediately as soon as you suspect that you might have one. Pneumonia may also be contagious.

Signs of this condition are the following:

  • Pain in the muscle
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the chest
  • Sweating

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a category of illnesses that results in poor function of the lungs pneumonitis. Part of this category is emphysema, which is developed due to constant smoking for many years.

Symptoms of COPD are:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Constant coughing
  • Having low levels of oxygen
  • Having an increased production of mucus

Pulmonary Embolism

This condition involves having a blockage in the artery or arteries that lead to the lungs and is usually caused by a blood clot somewhere in the body, such as in the pelvis or the leg that leads to the lungs. This is a serious condition that needs medical help.

Some symptoms are:

  • Dizziness
  • Pain in the chest
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Bluish tint on the skin
  • Leg swelling
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Coughing
  • Heavy sweating
  • Wheezing

Pulmonary Hypertension

If not treated early, pulmonary hypertension can have symptoms that are almost the same as those of pulmonary embolism. Those with this medical condition tend to experience shortness of breath that seems to get worse through time. Pulmonary hypertension involves the hardening or narrowing of the arteries in the lungs, which are affected by high blood pressure. This condition can result in heart failure, and if you are experiencing pain in the chest, loss of consciousness or shortness of breath, seek medical help immediately.

Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension begin with:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the chest
  • Difficulty when exercising
  • Shortness of breath


Croup is a type of respiratory condition that occurs due to a severe viral infection, and those who are at high risk for this are children who are in the age range of 6 months old to 3 years old. A distinctive symptom for Croup is a barking cough.

See your health care provider as soon as possible if you have this kind of symptom.


Epiglottitis is caused by an infection that makes the tissues covering the windpipe to be swollen. This medical condition needs medical help as soon as you start developing any of its symptoms.  

A certain cause of epiglottis may be avoided if you get your children who are below five years old to be vaccinated by the Hib vaccine (Haemophilus influenza type b). Adults are not susceptible to Hib infection.

Symptoms of epiglottitis are as follows:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Drooling
  • Hoarseness
  • Sore throat
  • Having a blue skin
  • Odd breathing sounds
  • Difficulty in swallowing and breathing

Other conditions that may affect breathing are those that are associated with heart problems. This happens when your heart is having difficulty in pumping oxygen-filled blood to the rest of the body, causing you to feel out of breath.

Several heart conditions may result in difficulty in breathing, and some of them are:

Coronary Artery Disease

Also known as CAD, this type of illness is due to the narrowing and hardening of the arteries that are responsible for supplying blood to the heart. When this condition happens, there is insufficient blood flow to the heart, which then leads to permanent damage to the heart muscle.

Symptoms for this are:

Congenital Heart Disease

This type of heart disease is an inherited problem that is related to the function and structure of the heart. It is also referred to as a congenital heart defect. Having this condition may result in:

  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Running out of breath


Those who already have other heart conditions are at a higher risk of experiencing arrhythmias. This heart condition involves having abnormal heartbeats that affect the heart rate or heart rhythm, making it either too slow or too fast.

Congestive Heart Failure

CHF is the weakening of the heart muscle and disallowing to pump blood throughout the body constantly. When this happens, the fluid in and around the lungs buildup.  

Aside from the ones already mentioned, there are still other types of heart conditions that may result in difficulty in breathing. These are:

  • Issues with the heart valves
  • Heart attack

Hiatal Hernia 

It may also be a reason for the difficulty in breathing, and this is when the upper part of the stomach sticks out of the diaphragm and into the chest. Those with this kind of condition may feel:

  • Heartburn
  • Pain in the chest
  • Difficulty in swallowing

The first form of treatment for hiatal hernia is a lifestyle change and corticosteroids medication, but if these do not work out, surgery may be done.

Medical issues are not the only causes of breathing difficulties. Rather, it also includes other factors like environmental issues like:

  • Lowered oxygen intake resulting from climbing to a high altitude
  • Allergies to certain elements such as pollen, dust or mold
  • Air passages that are blocked due to throat phlegm or stuffy nose
  • Anxiety and stress

Diagnosis and Treatment

A variety of reasons may cause breathing difficulties, and if you start experiencing shortness of breath or if you notice any irregularity in your breathing, seek medical attention immediately.  

When you meet with your health care provider, he or she may ask if you have other symptoms, and to make an accurate diagnosis, some medical tests may be performed, such as:

  • Spirometry and methacholine challenge tests
  • Chest x- rays
  • Allergy tests
  • Arterial blood gas analysis
  • CT scans
  • Lung tests


When a proper diagnosis has been made, the right treatment can already be prescribed. Some of the usual treatments for breathing difficulties are:

  • Medications
  • For upper respiratory conditions including asthma, the use of inhalers
  • For choking, removal of an object that blocks the throat
  • For acid reflux, the use of COPD antacids and requiring to eat smaller meals
  • For anaphylaxis, the use of EpiPen (epinephrine autoinjector)
  • To improve breathing, some are asked to do breathing exercises to expand the capacity of their lungs

Determining the type of treatment always depends on the cause of the problem, and that is the reason why medical tests are done to ensure that the right diagnosis is made.  

Risks of Having

There are several reasons for having breathing difficulties, and perhaps one way or another, we all have experienced this. But if it becomes frequent and seems abnormal, it is always best to see the doctor. Those who are at a higher risk to have this condition are those who are:

  • Obese
  • Under stress all the time
  • Allergic to certain elements
  • Having severe heart or lung condition
  • Doing extreme physical activities especially if in high altitudes

When to Seek Medical Attention

Do not hesitate to consult your health care provider as soon as you start having difficulty breathing, most especially so if it leads to fainting or when it takes place while experiencing some other symptoms that are associated with a heart attack.

Whatever type of breathing discomfort you are having, whether it is shortness of breath or other issues related to breathing. Whether you think it is mild or not, it is always best to see your doctor so that he or she can assess your situation properly.  

Getting diagnosed for whatever reason is causing your difficulty in breathing is always a good thing as it will prevent further complications.