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.

If you have unexplained shortness of breath, especially if it comes on suddenly and is severe, see your doctor as soon as possible.

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June 13, 2020

See also

  1. Acute coronary syndrome
  2. Acute kidney failure
  3. Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  4. Acute myelogenous leukemia
  5. Albuterol side effects
  6. Allergies
  7. Allergies and asthma
  8. Allergy medications: Know your options
  9. Allergy-proof your home
  10. Alpha-gal syndrome
  11. Amniotic fluid embolism
  12. Amyloidosis
  13. Anemia
  14. Angina
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  16. Aortic aneurysm
  17. Aortic calcification: An early sign of heart valve problems?
  18. Aortic dissection
  19. Aortic valve regurgitation
  20. Aortic valve stenosis
  21. Aplastic anemia
  22. ARDS
  23. Asbestosis
  24. Ascariasis
  25. Aspergillosis
  26. Aspirin allergy
  27. Asthma
  28. Asthma and acid reflux
  29. Asthma attack
  30. Asthma diet
  31. Asthma inhalers: Which one's right for you?
  32. Asthma: Colds and flu
  33. Asthma medications
  34. Asthma: Testing and diagnosis
  35. Asthma treatment: 3 steps
  36. Atrial fibrillation
  37. Atrial fibrillation and managing stress
  38. Atrial septal defect (ASD)
  39. Automated external defibrillators: Do you need an AED?
  40. Avoid rebound nasal congestion
  41. Blood Cancers and Disorders
  42. Blood clots during menstruation: A concern?
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  44. Mitral valve clip to treat mitral regurgitation: Bob's story
  45. Bradycardia
  46. Mitral valve overview
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  48. How kidneys work
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  52. Mayo Clinic offers congenital heart care: Marcus' story
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  54. Treating Pericarditis
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  56. Video: Valve-sparing aortic root replacement
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  61. Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?
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  64. Infographic: Cardiac sarcoidosis: A heart under attack
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  69. Central sleep apnea
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  71. Chest pain
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  80. Congenital heart defects in children
  81. Infographic: Congenital Heart Disease and Lifelong Care
  82. Congenital heart disease in adults
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  87. What is coronary artery disease? A Mayo Clinic cardiologist explains.
  88. Coronary artery disease FAQs
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  91. COVID-19: How can I protect myself?
  92. Herd immunity and coronavirus
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  94. COVID-19 and your mental health
  95. COVID-19, cold, allergies and the flu
  96. COVID-19 drugs: Are there any that work?
  97. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  98. COVID-19 in babies and children
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  100. COVID-19 travel advice
  101. COVID-19 vaccines for kids: What you need to know
  102. COVID-19 vaccines
  103. COVID-19 variant
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  119. Does older age increase the risk of atrial fibrillation?
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  136. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
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  138. Four Steps to Heart Health
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  188. Lung Cancer
  189. Infographic: Lung Cancer
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  191. Infographic: Lung Transplant for Cystic Fibrosis
  192. Lupus
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  194. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
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  196. Menus for heart-healthy eating
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  199. Mitral valve regurgitation
  200. Mitral valve stenosis
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  203. Myelofibrosis
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  209. NSAIDs: Do they increase my risk of heart attack and stroke?
  210. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
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  212. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
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  214. Omega-6 fatty acids
  215. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome
  216. Ozone air purifiers
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  218. Peanut allergy
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  220. Pericarditis
  221. Planning to travel with atrial fibrillation?
  222. Pleurisy
  223. Pneumonia
  224. Pneumonitis
  225. Pneumothorax
  226. Polycythemia vera
  227. Polyhydramnios
  228. Polymyositis
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  230. Post COVID syndrome
  231. Pregnancy and atrial fibrillation
  232. Pregnancy and COVID-19
  233. Protein: Heart-healthy sources
  234. Pulmonary atresia
  235. Pulmonary edema
  236. Pulmonary embolism
  237. Pulmonary fibrosis
  238. Pulmonary hypertension
  239. Pulmonary valve stenosis
  240. Put fish on the menu
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  243. Researchers Develop New Stents for Complex Aortic Aneurysms
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  245. Robotic heart surgery treats mitral regurgitation: Ed's story
  246. Robotic or minimally invasive cardiac surgery for adult-adolescent congenital heart disease
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  248. Safety tips for attending school during COVID-19
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  251. Scleroderma
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  253. Should I make changes to my diet if I've been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation?
  254. Sick sinus syndrome
  255. Silent heart attack
  256. Sleep apnea
  257. CPAP masks
  258. Small vessel disease
  259. Somatic symptom disorder
  260. Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD)
  261. Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD)
  262. Heart disease prevention
  263. Sudden cardiac arrest
  264. Sudden death in young people: Heart problems often blamed
  265. Sulfa allergy
  266. Super Survivor Conquers Cancer
  267. Tachycardia
  268. Takayasu's arteritis
  269. Test anxiety: Can it be treated?
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  274. Thyroid nodules
  275. Transposition of the great arteries
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  277. Tricuspid atresia
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  287. Dry powder tube inhaler
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