Shortness of breath occurs when the lungs are not able to absorb oxygen to support vital organs and functions that rely on fresh air. It is one of the most commonly observed discomforts of known health complications that affect respiration. The intensity of breathlessness varies depending on the underlying cause and severity of the triggers. Here are the most common causes of shortness of breath that can affect young children, men, and women.
Existing diseases and disorders
Shortness of breath is one of the primary noticeable discomforts triggered by health complications that affect respiration. These could range from a panic attack to pneumonia, and even serious asthma flareups. In addition, seasonal allergies causing inflammation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and even chronic respiratory failure can worsen breathlessness. The severity of the symptom will vary depending on the underlying disease.
Exposure to polluted air can also trigger shortness of breath due to the particulate matter irritating the respiratory tract. Carbon monoxide is one of the more dangerous gases that affects breathing and impairs respiratory function. It’s a common pollutant in the atmosphere released during forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and even lightning strikes. Carbon monoxide is also an industrial pollutant that is released due to burning of fossil fuels for powering vehicles and machinery. Increased amounts of carbon monoxide in the air impacts the blood’s ability to transport fresh oxygen. This triggers severe shortness of breath.
Pleurisy, or inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs, can impact the ability to absorb oxygen, causing shortness of breath. An excess buildup of fluid caused by pulmonary edema also leads to impaired respiratory function. In some cases, the lung tissues that absorb fresh oxygen can get damaged due to scarring caused by pulmonary fibrosis.
Anemia is a condition where the body produces less red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to vital organs and extremities. A low red blood cell count means less oxygenated blood in circulation, and consequently one might experience shortness of breath.
Problems involving the heart muscle, inflammation of the tissue around the heart caused by pericarditis, and congestive heart failure can all cause shortness of breath. The severity of breathlessness will depend on the stage of cardiovascular failure. Furthermore, repeated exposure to toxic elements in the environment can cause shortness of breath. This is particularly a trigger for those working in factories. One should immediately consult their physician if they constantly experience shortness of breath.