Most of the time, Dyspnea (trouble breathing or shortness of breath) is a symptom of an underlying condition, such as heart disease or asthma. If you experience shortness of breath please see NYC cardiologist, Dr. Ghalchi of Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates or a heart doctor immediately. Do not dismiss it as something you ate or just because you climbed the stairs.
Dyspnea is the clinical name for shortness of breath or labored breathing. When you have trouble breathing, it typically stems from either heart or lung issues. It can be painful as you struggle to catch your breath.
If your dyspnea is severe, seek medical attention from cardiovascular doctor immediately. To make an accurate diagnosis, your heart doctor may ask you two things:
- When the trouble, difficulty breathing started, were you at rest, exercising, or doing some other activity?
- Did the difficulty breathing come on gradually or start abruptly?
Your answers may hint toward specific causes. Based on your symptoms, your heart doctor can then focus on either cardiac or non-cardiac causes as the possible reason for your dyspnea.
Tying your shortness of breath to a heart-related cause is just the first step. Next, your NYC cardiologist has to narrow it down to a specific diagnosis so treatment can begin. Here are a number of possibilities:
- Arrhythmia, simply put, is an irregular heartbeat. While not everyone experiences symptoms when they have an arrhythmia, trouble breathing or shortness of breath can be one indicator of this heart condition.
- Valvular heart disease cardiovascular doctors refer as damaged or defective heart valves as a result you can experience a heavy breathing.
- Pericardial disease is an inflammation of the pericardium, which is the sac or outer membrane of the heart.
- Cardiac tamponade means that there’s fluid between the pericardium and the heart, causing constriction.
- Heart failure, or congestive heart failure (CHF) means your heart is having a hard time keeping up with the demands of your body and is not pumping efficiently. You might experience labored or heavy breathing.
- Heart attack is a serious cardiac event whose symptoms can include shortness of breath. If you think you have labored or trouble breathing or might be having a heart attack, seek cardiovascular doctor attention and cardiology treatment immediately.
- Coronary artery disease is defined as a narrowing of the arteries leading to the heart, usually from a buildup of plaque on the artery wall, which also contributes to the arteries hardening and difficulty breathing problems.
Non-Cardiac Reasons for Dyspnea
Shortness of breath is not always related to the heart. The list of non-cardiac causes is extensive. This is why it’s important to see a cardiovascular doctor when you have trouble breathing. Do not dismiss it as something you ate or just because you climbed the stairs.
- Pulmonary disease is an umbrella term for a variety of diseases associated with the lungs. The most common is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known as COPD.
- Ears, nose and throat (ENT) issues can also cause trouble breathing. The most common ENT cause of dyspnea (difficulty breathing) is airborne allergies.
- Surprisingly, gastrointestinal issues can cause of shortness of breath. Symptoms associated with GERD include chest pain, coughing and shortness of breath in severe cases.
- Asthma is characterized by not being able to get enough air into your lungs – difficulty breathing.
- Pneumothorax translates to a collapsed lung, a very serious medical condition that impairs your ability to breathe.
- Pneumonia, when the illness is far enough along, can leave you feeling short of breath.
If you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to your dyspnea, please see a heart doctor immediately, as it could be a sign of a more serious condition:
- Chest pain
- Pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs
- Dizziness or fainting
- Coughing or wheezing
- Bloody sputum
- Neck pain
Seeing a Cardiologist
Your NYC cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates first works to discern if your dyspnea is due to a heart condition. If not, the cardiologist can then perform further evaluations or refer you to another NYC specialist to determine the cause of your difficulty breathing symptoms. To rule out the heart as the root cause, your cardiologist will likely order tests, such as:
- Electrocardiogram, often referred to as an EKG or ECG. This non-invasive test monitors the electrical pulses of the heart for abnormalities.
- Echocardiogram, or Echo, another non-invasive test. This test uses sound waves to reveal real-time images of the heart so the cardiovascular doctor can see the chambers, the size and the shape of the heart.
- Stress tests, which involve putting your body through intense activity, such as walking fast or running on a treadmill. The heart specialist monitors the heart’s reaction and functioning through use of electrodes.
- Pulmonary function tests comprise a group of non-invasive tests to determine how well your lungs are functioning. These tests measure capacity, the exchange of gases and the like.
Most of the time, trouble breathing is a symptom of an underlying condition, such as heart disease or asthma, that the cardiology specialist treats. In addition to specific treatments there are some things that you can do to make sure your lungs and heart are healthy, thereby reducing your occurrences of shortness of breath:
- Quite smoking cigarettes. Once you quit smoking, every day your body makes improvements. In as few as twenty-four hours, your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack are already on the decline. In just three weeks, you should be able to exercise without breathing heavily. Quitting cigarettes is one of the most beneficial things you can do to improve your breathing.
- Lose the excess weight. If your cardiologist or heart specialist has classified you as overweight, it’s in your best interest to shed pounds and lighten the load placed on your heart.
- Stay away from noxious fumes and pollutants, which can irritate and even harm your lungs. Toxins in the air can cause you to have difficulty breathing.
- Use common sense. Take care of any underlying medical issues, follow all of your heart doctor’s instructions, make sure any equipment you use to help you breath is in good working order and have a plan in place that you’ve worked out with your heart specialist in case your symptoms suddenly get worse.
When you come into Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates, you get state-of-the-art diagnosis and personal attention. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing can have many different underlying causes, so it’s important to see a NYC heart doctor or cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates as soon as you can if you’re experiencing dyspnea.
Dr. Michael Ghalchi, Cardiologist (Cardiologist NYC, Midtown)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 686-0066