ZocdocAnswersWhy do I get shortness of breath every time I do physical activity?

Question

Why do I get shortness of breath every time I do physical activity?

Anytime I do anything that is even sort of physical (like even taking a walk) I get very short of breath. Why do I get shortness of breath every time I do something physical or do physical activity?

Answer

Shortness of breath with exertion is a very common complaint encountered in the primary care setting. The range of causes is very wide, and some causes are more likely with certain characteristics of the patient. For example, coronary artery disease can present in this fashion, but this would be a more concerning possibility for a 60 year old man with hypertension and diabetes than for an otherwise healthy 22-year-old. So speaking generally, heart disease can manifest as shortness of breath without chest pain. Lung diseases such as Emphysema / COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma can also present in this manner, and are not always associated with wheezing. People that are very deconditioned from a sedentary lifestyle or those who are recovering from a serious illness or prolonged hospitalization often complain of shortness of breath with minimal exertion, but improve with gradual strengthening and mobility exercises. Additionally, patients with underlying anemia may feel worse with exertion, as the increased demand for oxygen by the body under stress may not be met with a reduced number of red blood cells available. Since the cause of your symptoms is unclear, it is advised that you seek out the help of your primary care physician. With a thorough medical history and physical (and additional testing with an EKG or chest x-ray if indicated), your doctor can help determine what is ailing you.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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