Home Lung and airwaysDyspnoea What is the most common cause of shortness of breath?

What is the most common cause of shortness of breath?

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Shortness of breath, a symptom known medically as dyspnea, is not a disease or disorder in itself, but can be due to many different causes. That is why it is important to observe when it appears and what symptoms are related to be able to determine more precisely what it is due to.

Do you wonder why I feel like I am short of breath ? In the following FastlyHealarticle we are going to explain the causes that can cause it, likewise, we will also differentiate shortness of breath depending on the related symptoms that you may have.

Is it bad that you are short of breath?

As we have already explained, shortness of breath or difficulty holding your breath is medically known as dyspnea . This can appear in different ways, for example, the feeling of suffocation, the sensation of not taking in enough air or the lack of control in breathing. However, the bad guy who is short of breath? At this point it would be worth looking at why you are short of breath and what is causing it.

There are times when this is completely normal and you should not worry, for example, if you are or have just exercised, if you are in a very hot place, as long as it is momentary. However, when it appears unexpectedly or recurrently is when you should ask yourself if there is any underlying problem that is causing it. Throughout the article we will explain what the reasons for dyspnea are.

Shortness of breath from anxiety

The anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways, but the shortness of breath is one of its main symptoms . Choking, chest pressure, and shortness of breath are common signs of anxiety. In addition, to this we must add hyperventilation.

We know as hyperventilation both very deep breathing and very rapid breathing, in any case, the main consequence of this is that there is a lack of air that causes the levels of calcium and carbon dioxide in the blood to fall. This fact causes the blood vessels to constrict, causing some of the most typical symptoms of anxiety , for example:

  • Tachycardias
  • Pressure in the chest.
  • Numbness of the extremities.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness

Why do I feel short of breath when I go to bed

As we have already explained, it is very important to identify the moment when dyspnea appears. In this case, if you are short of breath when sleeping, you may be suffering from paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea , a disorder that causes the sudden interruption of sleep with shortness of breath, being necessary to get up to regain your breath.

This is a problem that usually affects people who have heart or lung problems, which is why it is necessary to initiate adequate medical treatment to treat the underlying disease. If this is what happens to you, in the following FastlyHealarticle we will talk in depth about paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea: causes, symptoms and treatment .

Why do I feel short of breath in pregnancy?

Are you short of breath in pregnancy? Do you have difficulty breathing normally? Relax, it is something common in your state, especially in the last weeks and at the beginning of pregnancy, however, it will depend on the intensity in which you feel it.

When you are pregnant, the uterus enlarges, causing the diaphragm to rise and press on the muscles that help you breathe. That is why breathing problems and shortness of breath is a common symptom in pregnant women. In addition, other sensations that you may have as a result of the rise of the diaphragm are:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Feeling of suffocation

As in any aspect of pregnancy, if you notice this sensation with great intensity, you should go to the gynecologist to evaluate your health, however, you should not be overly alarmed because, as we have said, you feel that you are short of breath in pregnancy. it is normal .

Why do I feel like I’m short of breath and my back hurts

Feeling short of breath can be a symptom of a lung disease , in addition, this type of disease often also manifests itself with pain in the back that can radiate to other areas of the body. Some of the main lung conditions that can cause these symptoms are the following:


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease ( COPD ) is a disease of the lungs that is usually caused by smoking. This habit damages the lungs, causing them to lose capacities and develop conditions such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis.


The Asthma is a disease that causes inflammation and, consequently, the narrowing of the airways, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, whistling, coughing or pressure.


Pneumonia or pneumonia is an infectious inflammation of the tissue of the lungs. With this infection, the alveoli can fill with pus or other fluids that cause difficulties in breathing as well as in the oxygenation of the body.


In this case we are talking about inflammation of the bronchi, a condition that causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, tightness in the chest or cough with expectoration. We can distinguish between two types of bronchitis, acute and chronic, the difference between the two being that the first does not extend for more than 3 weeks, while the second can be indefinite.


The pneumothorax is the result of a perforation in the lung, causing air to leak and that this body can not expand normally when breathing. In turn, this air accumulates in the outer cavity of the lungs, causing chest pain, back pain and shortness of breath.

Pulmonary embolism

Pulmonary embolism is the blockage, either total or partial, of the pulmonary artery. It is usually caused by a clot that has formed in the leg and travels through the bloodstream to the pulmonary artery. Shortness of breath, as well as pain in the back and chest, are some of the main symptoms of pulmonary embolism.

Pulmonary fibrosis

It is the result of the scarring of the lung tissue, a process that makes them thicker and harder, losing their main characteristics and conditioning their function. Some of the symptoms that accompany this disease are shortness of breath, cough, tiredness or pain.

Pulmonary edema

Pulmonary edema, popularly known as puddled lungs or water in the lungs, is, as its name indicates, the accumulation of fluid in this organ, preventing its proper functioning and reducing the amount of air that they can inhale.

Lung tumor

Finally, among the lung diseases that can cause shortness of breath we find lung cancer. A tumor growth in this organ also manifests itself with symptoms such as weight loss, a hoarse voice, a cough accompanied by blood, or back and chest pain.

Why do I feel short of breath after eating

Eat a lot

The digestive system is our second brain, and this is not just a metaphor, but in this organ many emotions are handled and, during digestion, it becomes a very sophisticated chemical center. Hunger is the mechanism that alerts us that we must eat food, however, when we still have a full stomach and eat or when we eat excessively, this can cause a saturation of the digestive system that ends up affecting other organs of the body. The widening of the stomach from eating too much will make the space for the lungs to widen less, causing shortness of breath and shortness of breath.

Eat very fast

In addition, this is related to the first cause that we have talked about in the article: anxiety . And it is that when we are anxious or stressed we have a tendency to eat more, worse and faster . All of them decisive factors for what we have just told. When we eat with anxiety, not only do we eat more fatty foods that make our digestion difficult, but we eat too quickly, causing our stomach to fill with air and causing difficulties in breathing.

Blood accumulated in the stomach

But this is not the only reason why you may feel short of breath after eating . Another possible reason is that, after eating food, most of the blood goes to the stomach to be able to digest well. Therefore, there is less amount to oxygenate the rest of the body, consequently, our body asks for more air to be able to oxygenate the body, which is why you may feel like you are short of breath after eating.

Food allergies

Finally we can find food allergies , however, in these cases it will not always happen to you, but will appear suddenly only after eating some foods. The fact is that when we eat a food to which we are allergic, it causes a reaction in our body that, among other symptoms, causes the airways to narrow and, therefore, causes difficulty in breathing.

Why do I feel like I’m short of breath and my heart aches

First of all, it must be clear that the heart does not hurt. We often speak of pain in the heart or punctures in the heart, however, in this organ we do not feel pain but, at most, when some disease affects it, that pain radiates to other areas such as the chest, neck, back, jaw or arm.

The second clarification that must be made is that pain caused by a cardiovascular condition is often confused with symptoms derived from anxiety . Like these diseases, anxiety can cause shortness of breath and pain in the heart (that is, in the chest or arm). That is why it is important to consult a doctor and, if any cardiovascular disorder is ruled out, give it truth and treat anxiety.

With these caveats made, there are several heart-related diseases that can cause shortness of breath and other related symptoms. We will explain them to you below:

Heart failure

It is usually a chronic disease, although it may appear acutely, in any case, it arises when the heart is unable to pump correctly, causing the blood not to arrive efficiently and, consequently, the body cannot be oxygenated .


It is not just one, but it encompasses a group of diseases that occur in the heart muscle, causing it to increase in size, to become thicker or the muscle to become stiffer.

Heart attack

Also known as a heart attack, it is caused by the blockage of an artery, which causes the blood not to reach the heart correctly and if it is not unblocked, it causes the death of the heart tissue. In this article we will talk about the main symptoms of a heart attack .


Arrhythmias are alterations that occur in the heart rate, that is, in the rhythm at which our heart beats. There are different types, however, in general we can distinguish between tachycardia – when it beats faster than normal, or bradycardia – when it beats slower than normal.


It usually has a bacterial origin, although it can also be caused by a virus, and is defined as inflammation of the heart muscle, causing this organ to prevent its proper development. Myocarditis is a life-threatening disease, which is why it must be treated as quickly as possible.


If in the previous case we were talking about the heart muscle, in the case of pericarditis what is inflamed is the pericardium, that is, the membrane that covers the heart. It is often very difficult to clarify the exact cause, however, it is always due to an infection, whether of viral, fungal or bacterial origin.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Why do I feel short of breath , we recommend that you enter our Lung and respiratory tract category .

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