Other common causes of shortness of breath include: However, shortness of breath also can be caused by serious health conditions such as: Shortness of breath typically isn’t cause for concern when combined with a common cause like exercise or high altitude. Lung function test. Learn about risk factors, treatment, and more. Anxiety. WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Each year, between 25% and 50% of people in the U.S. see a doctor for shortness of breath. If you've struggled with your breathing for a while, don't ignore it. Your doctor can do some basic tests to help you get to the bottom of your shortness of breath. It may be related to serious diseases, or it could be a result of being out of shape physically. A technician will attach small electrodes to your chest with gel or tape, and a machine will measure the electrical impulses that make your heart beat. You may only qualify for a COVID-19 test if you feel other symptoms associated with illness alongside shortness of breath, such as fever, dry cough, sputum production, or a sore throat. Causes behind painful breathing, fluid buildup. Smoking is a leading cause of chronic respiratory lung disease, which leads to shortness of breath. Take the Breath Test > Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education: “Dyspnea.”, Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Shortness of Breath.”, American Lung Association: “Diagnosing and Treating Shortness of Breath.”, Cleveland Clinic: “Chest X-Ray” and "Body Plethysmography (Pulmonary Function Test), American Academy of Family Physicians: “Diagnostic Evaluation of Dyspnea.”, Mayo Clinic: “Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).”, Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library: “Pulmonary Function Tests.”. Chest X-ray. Regular exercise can also promote weight-loss, which can improve lung function. If your shortness of breath is mild or the result of anxiety, you may be asked to come to the surgery rather than a home visit. Quit smoking and vaping. Also called pulse oximetry, this helps your doctor measure how much oxygen is in your blood. This could include a rescue inhaler or breathing treatments. Most cases of shortness of breath are due to heart or lung conditions. Your medication will not be as effective or effective at all if not taken as prescribed. A doctor or nurse will use a needle to take blood from a vein in your arm and send it to a lab for tests. Learn more about COVID-19 and how it affects specific health conditions in these printable patient education materials. Tests to Diagnose Shortness of Breath At your appointment, your doctor will ask a few questions about your medical history and do a physical exam. 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. It is especially important if you have normal O2 sat uration levels as it may indicate the need for other interventions and treatment. If shortness of breath is your only symptom, with no fever or dry cough, you probably don’t have the COVID-19 virus, according to the site. But the most important thing to do is to carefully monitor your symptoms, especially coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and fever, and to inform your healthcare provider about any worsening. For many, being at a high altitude causes shortness of breath. It’s painless and easy -- a radiology technologist can do one in about 15 minutes. When you visit your doctor, she will take a careful history and do a physical exam. Your doctor may also have you stand in a box that looks like a telephone booth to check your lung capacity. 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