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Symptom Checker

Step 4: Read and complete the decision guide to learn more about your symptoms.

Coughs and Colds

Your shortness of breath must be evaluated by a doctor so the cause can be identified and your safety can be assessed. Shortness of breath from any cause can worsen abruptly, so the cause of your symptoms must be diagnosed and treated.

Your doctor will need to observe your breathing and examine you to determine whether your shortness of breath is coming from a problem that is limiting your delivery of oxygen into the blood, a problem that is interfering with your movement of air in and out of the lungs, or a circulation or heart problem. In the doctor's office, your oxygen level can be measured by a monitor. Your doctor can also gain information about your shortness of breath by listening to your lung sounds with a stethoscope, measuring the force with which you are able to breathe through an air-flow monitor, obtaining a chest x-ray, or possibly obtaining blood tests or other studies.

Common causes of shortness of breath include pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, fluid that has accumulated under the lung ("pleural effusion"), and a blood clot in the lung circulation ("pulmonary embolus ").


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