Shortness of Breath: A Big Signal of Potential Disease

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is an often-overlooked symptom of what may be heart failure or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

New research shows that with early intervention, patients can avoid suffering and the need for hospitalization decreases.

“The fact that people do not seek medical advice for their breathlessness is often due to people associating their symptoms with the natural process of aging.”

“But if you notice that you experience increased shortness of breath during exertion, you should seek medical attention,” declares one researcher.

The team studied breathlessness in several studies with different study designs and study populations.

One study was population based and had about 1000 participants, while another one had about 100 patients who sought medical advice for their breathlessness in the primary healthcare setting.

It does not involve patients with acute shortness of breath, which can develop within a few days and should always be treated immediately.

Instead, the focus is on chronic shortness of breath and adults who sought care after having shortness of breath for six weeks or more.

Like high blood pressure

“The patients who sought care for chronic breathlessness appeared to have a significantly impaired quality of life than the general population.

They often had major problems completing everyday tasks. They suffered from different underlying diseases like a potential heart failure or a hidden obstructive lung disease that was developing.”

Chronic shortness of breath should be considered as an equally important warning signal as high blood pressure.

To an early detection or a correct medication of potentially chronic diseases, we need more efficient models in the primary health care to identify those who are at risk.

“My point is that the faster we identify these patients, the better prognoses we will have and the lighter the load on the healthcare system later.”

Shortness of breath is often a sign of heart or lung disease because these two organs are most closely involved in the respiratory system.

More than being out of shape

Previous research has shown that one out of three individuals over 65 years of age in Sweden may suffer from shortness of breath during exertion.

The question is how to distinguish between chronic shortness of breath and poor general fitness.

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News source: University of Gothenburg. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.