Feeling a little short of breath? You’re in the right place.
The state of feeling out of breath can be deeply distressing, and for nearly a third of those with lung disease, it is a condition that is frequently debilitating.
In short, we need oxygen to live, and to feel as though that has been cut off—even momentarily—can be a terrible ordeal.
Unfortunately, for those who live with chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis or emphysema, this struggle to breathe can be a daily occurrence.
Although there are a variety of alternative treatment options available such as inhalers, oxygen, and cellular therapy, for many Americans, shortness of breath (also known as dyspnea) is a symptom of lung disease that can have a significantly detrimental effect on quality of life.
With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to give you the information you need to figure out What is Dyspnea, and When Should It Concern You?
So, What Is Dyspnea?
As we mentioned earlier, dyspnea is the condition of feeling out of breath. Although this condition is typically used to describe general breathlessness, in chronic cases, it is most often associated with chronic lung disease.
For those who live with lung diseases such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema, the feeling of breathlessness can be a continuous source of stress and fatigue.
In judging whether or not one has dyspnea—particularly if experiencing it habitually—it is important to refer to a physician as soon as you feel that something is amiss.
In the cases of COPD diagnoses specifically, many Americans are not diagnosed until they have progressed to stage 3 or 4 because the feelings associated with breathlessness are often attributed to old age.
If you are feeling particularly breathless after any strenuous or engaging activity, it is vitally important to go see your doctor, describe these symptoms as accurately as possible and get a spirometry test as soon as possible.
In treating lung disease, time is a continual factor when looking to save one’s quality of life from further damage.
How Do You Cope with Dyspnea?
In the course of coping with dyspnea, the solution is similar to treating chronic lung disease; it starts with changing one’s lifestyle. For starters, quit smoking. At the Lung Institute, we cannot stress this enough.
Quitting smoking is incredibly difficult, and for those who have smoked since they were teenagers and young adults, quitting the habit of smoking is similar to changing a core aspect of your personality.
It’s not easy, and for 80% of people who try to quit, they fail. And that’s okay. It may take a while to quit but the act of trying is what’s most important because continued smoking will only decrease your lifespan.
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to drop the habit, the next step is addressing your diet and getting more exercise. Start slow and give yourself room to fail.
Missteps and mistakes are okay as long as you stay focused on your goal and pick yourself back up.
When Should Dyspnea Concern You?
The problem with COPD and other lung diseases is that they often go undiagnosed until the disease has progressed to a more dangerous stage.
In addressing the concerns of lung disease, it’s critical to know yourself and your body. Monitor your body closely and take note when something inside doesn’t feel quite right.
Seeking medical help promptly can help you address your condition proactively. If you’ve been feeling out of breath consistently for a few weeks now, it may be time to take a trip to the doctor.
The feeling of breathlessness or dyspnea can often be debilitating. As a core symptom of chronic lung disease, frequent shortness of breath can have a devastating effect on your quality of life.
However, by changing your diet, consistently exercising and quitting smoking, it’s possible to greatly affect the pronouncement of symptoms within those with COPD, pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.