Few sensations are as frightening as not being able to get enough air. Shortness of breath — known medically as dyspnea — is often described as an intense tightening in the chest, air hunger, difficulty breathing, breathlessness, or a feeling of suffocation.
Very strenuous exercise, extreme temperatures, obesity, and higher altitude all can cause shortness of breath in a healthy person. Outside of these examples, shortness of breath is likely a sign of a medical problem.
Most cases of shortness of breath are due to heart or lung conditions. Your heart and lungs are involved in transporting oxygen to your tissues and removing carbon dioxide, and problems with either of these processes affect your breathing. Shortness of breath that comes on suddenly (called acute) has a limited number of causes, including anaphylaxis, asthma, carbon monoxide poisoning, cardiac tamponade, COPD, coronavirus disease, heart attack, heart arrhythmia, heart failure, pneumonia, pneumothorax, pulmonary embolism, sudden blood loss, and upper airway obstruction (blockage in the breathing passage). In the case of shortness of breath that has lasted for weeks or longer (called chronic), the condition is most often due to asthma, COPD, deconditioning, heart dysfunction, interstitial lung disease, obesity, and pleural effusion.
Your doctor will help you manage dyspnea by first identifying and then treating the condition causing your breathing trouble. Depending on the underlying condition, your treatment may include exercise, medication, and oxygen therapy. Improving your physical fitness can strengthen your heart and lungs. Better overall health can help you feel less winded during activity. Even with a heart or lung condition, cardiovascular rehabilitation might help. The provider might also suggest that you learn breathing techniques. Inhaled drugs called bronchodilators can relax your airways in asthma and in COPD. Medication to relieve pain or anxiety can ease breathlessness. Receiving extra oxygen through a mask or tube in the nostrils can help you breathe more comfortably. This is only appropriate when the blood oxygen level is measured by a healthcare professional and shown to be low.
The table below includes the most commonly used ICD-10 codes for shortness of breath:
|ICD-10 Chapter||Codes||Code Description|
|18||R06.02||Shortness of breath|
|18||R06.03||Acute respiratory distress|
|18||R06.09||Other forms of dyspnea|
Author: Tonoya Ahmed