What Is Dyspnea?

For appointments or more information, please email john.ryan@hsc.utah.edu or nathan.hatton@hsc.utah.edu.

If you have difficulty catching your breath, feel intense tightening in your chest, or feel like you’re suffocating, you are suffering from dyspnea—also called shortness of breath. Dyspnea is one of the symptoms of heart disease, specifically heart failure or a heart attack. You can feel short of breath just once or you can feel it many times.

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What Causes Dyspnea?

If you have shortness of breath, it’s probably because you have a lung or heart condition. However, dyspnea can also be caused by high-intensity exercise, very hot or cold temperatures, obesity, or high altitude. If you feel short of breath very suddenly and it feels very severe, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

Conditions that may cause dyspnea include the following:

The Dyspnea Clinic

University of Utah Health has a clinic dedicated to diagnosing and treating shortness of breath (also called dyspnea). The Dyspnea Clinic is a unique program as the first of its kind in the western United States. It also serves as a referral location for unexplained shortness of breath, pulmonary hypertension, and HFpEF for the Mountain West and beyond.