Cardiothoracic Surgery Patient Care
Shortness of breath: a sensation of difficult or uncomfortable breathing or a feeling of not getting enough air.
No standard definition exists for difficulty breathing. For some, a sense of breathlessness may occur with only mild exercise (for example, climbing stairs) without indicating the presence of a specific disorder. Others may have advanced lung disease and difficulty exchanging air but may never feel a sensation of shortness of breath.
In some circumstances, a small degree of breathing difficulty may be normal. Severe nasal congestion is one example. Strenuous exercise, especially when a person does not exercise regularly, is another. In many situations, however, difficulty breathing represents the presence of significant disease and should be evaluated by a health care provider immediately.
Call your health care provider and/or go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if:
- difficulty breathing comes on suddenly or seriously interferes with breathing or if someone completely stops breathing.
- There is any unexplained shortness of breath.
- There is any chest discomfort.
- There is shortness of breath after only slight exertion or while at rest.