Find information on how we’re keeping you safe from COVID-19 here

To top

What is breathlessness?

Breathlessness is a symptom that is felt when a person’s magnitude of breathing feels disproportionate to the amount of effort they are expending when exerting themselves, or when severe even at rest.

What causes breathlessness?

There are many systems involved in the exercise response and can lead to breathlessness:

  • Lungs e.g. asthma, COPD, lung fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension
  • Heart e.g. angina, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, structural heart disease
  • Muscles e.g. myopathy, deconditioning
  • Nervous system which controls breathing e.g. hyperventilation, breathing pattern disorders, dysautonomia
  • Blood & endocrine e.g. anaemia, thyroid disease

Any of these may result in either an increased need to breathe or increased effort to breathe.

How is breathlessness investigated?

Usually a clinical history can narrow down which system needs investigating further, but sometimes it is necessary to undertake a wider series of tests to pinpoint the cause. Only by achieving an accurate diagnosis can you expect to be given the most effective treatment(s). The tests frequently used to investigate breathlessness are:

  • Blood tests
  • Lung function
  • Exercise testing
  • Echocardiogram
  • Lung and heart imaging with CT and MRI scanning

Our group of leading consultant respiratory physicians and radiologists at OneWelbeck Lung Health work together using the latest diagnostic medical technology at custom-built, day-case facilities to investigate any symptoms and ensure you receive the best available care. They work closely with the cardiology team at OneWelbeck Heart Health to provide a seamless and integrated approach to your diagnostic pathway and management.