Having trouble breathing or catching your breath can certainly be a cause for concern. While it’s normal to be out of breath after an intense workout there are times when symptoms such as chest tightness, persistent coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing appear and any of these symptoms are usually signs that something more serious is going on.
As you might imagine, most breathing problems are associated with lung or respiratory conditions. These are problems that an otolaryngologist can easily help you treat or manage. Common lung conditions that can affect breathing include:
Asthma: a chronic condition that affects millions and causes inflammation and airway constriction, which results in coughing, wheezing and chest tightness. Symptoms can range from mild to life threatening.
Pneumonia: an infection of the respiratory tract that causes inflammation and fluid buildup in the lungs. It’s important to see an otolaryngologist immediately for treatment, as untreated pneumonia could be dangerous (and also highly contagious). Symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Shallow breathing
- Productive cough, often with yellow or green mucus
- Chest pain that occurs when breathing deeply or coughing
- Muscle aches
- Sweating and fever
- Loss of appetite
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): this is a group of chronic inflammatory lung diseases that cause airway obstructions within the lungs. The most common types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema, a condition that most often occurs in smokers. Common symptoms of COPD include:
- Mucus production
- Persistent cough
- Trouble breathing
- Chest tightness
This is a progressive condition that will make breathing even more difficult as the condition advances. It’s important to see an ENT doctor right away if you notice any symptoms of COPD. Early symptoms include exercise-induced rapid breathing, a persistent cough, and clearing your throat often (usually in the morning).
Lung cancer: this type of cancer develops anywhere in the lungs, allowing abnormal cells to multiply until a tumor forms. While many people who develop lung cancer are smokers, this form of cancer can also develop in those who have never smoked a day in their life. Early warning signs of lung cancer include:
- Vocal changes
- Chronic cough
- Bloody mucus when coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling weak
- Unexpected weight loss
Since the early warning signs associated with lung cancer can also be caused by other respiratory conditions it is important to turn to an ear, nose, and throat doctor who will be able to perform the proper diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.
If you are having trouble catching your breath it’s important that you find out why this is happening to you. Call your ENT doctor today for an evaluation.