Respiratory distress: what is it?


In the case of respiratory distress or shortness of breath, those affected experience a difficulty in breathing. Breathing is short and shallow. The body is not sufficiently supplied with oxygen. Performance of those affected is severely limited. This often results in mental stress as they often experience the feeling of suffocation. Depending on its cause, shortness of breath can be controlled easily with a variety of measures.

Causes of shortness of breath

The causes of a shortness of breath can be extremely varied. Chronic and acute diseases of the lungs and bronchi often lead to a shortness of breath. In such cases, the shortness of breath often intensifies with coughing.

Heart diseases often are associated with a shortness of breath.

In addition, there may be neurological, rheumatic or orthopaedic causes.
Shortness of breath also may occur in overweight patients and should be treated in this case.

There are numerous diseases which list shortness of breath amongst their symptoms.

These include:

  • Bronchopneumonia
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Pleurisy
  • Diphtheria
  • Hives
  • Metabolism disorders
  • Anaemia
  • Deformations of the ribcage
  • Rib fractures
  • etc.

Diagnosis of shortness of breath

The causes of shortness of breath can be wide-ranging and should be clarified with a doctor in any case. Respiratory distress also may occur in healthy people who find themselves in a stressful situation.

Diagnostic investigations can be as diverse as the suspected causes of the respiratory distress. In the majority of cases, lung and heart function are tested. In addition, x-ray examinations and ultrasound are used.

Treatment and therapy

Treatment usually is based around the underlying disease and generally leads to a successful conclusion.

Breathing training during yoga practices or breathing therapy provide additional relief.


A healthy lifestyle together with a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and smoking cessation strengthens the immune system and is a good way of preventing shortness of breath.