Dyspnea, also known as shortness of breath or breathlessness, is a subjective sensation of breathing discomfort.

Activation of several pathways can lead to the sensation of breathlessness. [1] Increased work of breathing, stimulation of the receptors of the upper or lower airway, lung parenchyma, or chest wall, and excessive stimulation of the respiratory center by central and peripheral chemoreceptors can all lead to this sensation. These stimuli are transferred to the central nervous system via respiratory muscle and vagal afferents and are then processed in the context of the affective state, attention, and prior experience of the patient, resulting in dyspnea. [2] [3]

The evaluation and management of dyspnea is directed by the clinical presentation, findings from the history and physical exam, and preliminary investigation results.

The etiology of dyspnea covers a broad range of pathologies from mild, self-limited processes to life-threatening conditions. Diseases of the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neuromuscular systems are the most common etiologies.

Differential diagnosis


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