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Reasons You Could Be Short of Breath

photo of ill man with flu drinking tea and coughing at homeBeing short of breath is a common complaint among many. It is also a difficult diagnostic challenge. And like fatigue, upset stomach or dizziness, there are many things that can cause you to have short breath.

If you ever have breathing difficulties, you should always discuss the problems with your physician, especially if you have symptoms that are troublesome such as difficulty staying upright or pain of any sort.

Fortunately, there are numerous reasons why you can have difficulty breathing. In fact, many are very common and easily treated. Three of the most common reasons include:

  • Poor respiratory “practices”
  • Weak breathing muscles
  • Myofascial pain syndrome ( “muscle knots” or trigger points in the respiratory muscles)


Warning Signs

When it comes to being short of breath, sometimes there are no easy solutions. There are also “red flags” that indicate you may have a serious condition. Equally, if you have any warning signs, contact a specialist immediately.

  • Constantly tired
  • Pale tone to the skin
  • Dry and painful cough
  • Swollen ankles and feet
  • Chronic coughing or wheezing
  • Persistent or unusual symptoms
  • Harder to breathe when lying down
  • Shortness of breath is worse when you exercise
  • Have worked around wood dust, industrial fumes, asbestos or in a coal mine

Any one of the warning signs can be an indication of a serious condition. For more assistance or if you suspect a serious condition, contact a specialist such as Dr. Charkawi at Johns Creek Family Medicine.


According to the Mayo Clinic, there are various reasons why you could be short of breath. The Mayo staff says that majority of breathing problems are generally caused from lung or heart conditions. This is because your lungs and heart help remove carbon dioxide and transport oxygen to your body’s tissues. When there are issues with either, it will highly affect your breathing.

The Mayo staff affirms that when shortness of breath comes on suddenly (called acute), there are a few possible causes such as:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Precipitous blood loss
  • Asthma (bronchospasm)
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Pneumothorax (a collapsed lung)
  • Pneumonia (pulmonary infection)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Cardiac tamponade (excess fluid around your heart)
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in an artery in your lung)
  • Upper airway obstruction (blockage in your breathing passage)

Moreover, if you are short of breath for two weeks or longer (called chronic), the condition is more than likely caused by one of the following:

  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Deconditioning
  • Heart dysfunction
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Furthermore, there are various heart and lung conditions that can cause shortness of breath. There are also other factors that can affect your breathing.

Heart Issues

  • Heart failure
  • Heart arrhythmias (rhythm problems)
  • Cardiomyopathy (problems with the heart muscle)
  • Pericarditis (swelling of the membrane adjacent to the heart)


Lung Issues

  • Pleurisy
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Croup (found in young children)


Other Issues

  • Anemia
  • Choking
  • Broken ribs
  • Inhaling a foreign object
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Epiglottitis (swelling of part of the windpipe)
  • Myasthenia gravis (condition causing muscle weakness)

If you have any of these symptoms or conditions, it is best to work with a physician that is knowledgeable in breathing problems. And since breathing problems can be caused by an array of things, it is best to have a thorough exam. Likewise, Dr. Charkawi’s professional goal is to treat the whole patient. Not only is this method generally successful in finding the cause of your short breath but it also helps improve and balance your physical and mental health.

Johns Creek Family Medicine

At Johns Creek Family Medicine, Dr. Charkawi will take a thorough look at your needs and have an open dialogue to your care. In truth, availability and listening are his major tools in treatment. Also, contact the professional staff at Johns Creek Family Medicine if at any time you have questions or concerns about any breathing problems.

Johns Creek Family Medicine proudly serves North Fulton, Gwinnett and South Forsyth counties as well as the surrounding North Atlanta area.

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