The doctor will physically examine you thoroughly based on your breathing difficulties and other symptoms. He/she is likely to use a stethoscope to check the rate of heartbeats and listen to breath sounds.
Investigation of medical conditions
Your doctor will enquire about your personal and family history of medical conditions to determine possible dyspnea causes. This will enable him/her to evaluate whether shortness of breath might be an underlying cause of any of these health conditions. It will help the doctor eliminate medical conditions that could have otherwise been a possible cause of this health condition.
Medical tests for dyspnea causes
The doctor may recommend the following diagnostic tests based on his/her evaluation:
- Chest X-ray: This is an imaging test that involves focusing radiation on the chest to reproduce an exact image of the organs. The image gets reflected on the computer monitor via the X-ray machine and then recreated on a black film, which is the X-ray test result. This test is effective in identifying the type, exact location, and extent of abnormalities, which is the underlying cause of dyspnea.
- CT scan: A Computerized Tomography or CT scan is also an imaging test that involves the administration of electromagnetic waves on the affected location. This helps to recreate the image of the organs and other structures of the chest onto a computer monitor. This also serves the purpose of identifying abnormalities in the chest that have been making breathing difficult.
- Electrocardiogram: An ECG test traces the electrical signals of the heart to monitor the prevalence of abnormalities like abnormal heartbeats. Unusual rhythms of the heart may indicate medical conditions like arrhythmias or dysrhythmias.
- Ambulatory cardiac monitoring: This involves using a monitor to monitor heart activities over varying time spans. While a holter monitor may measure heart activities for 24 hours, other types of monitors may be used for more than two weeks.
- Exercise tests: These tests specialise in analysing heart rates, blood pressure, and changes in breathing.
- Blood tests: Blood oxygen saturation and/or arterial blood gas may be evaluated.
- Spirometry or Pulmonary Function Test: This measures lung capacity and lung volumes. It will determine if there is an obstructive or restrictive respiratory impairment on lung function.
Treatment and Lifestyle Changes
The treatment for shortness of breath depends on the medical condition that is causing it and its severity. In case of mild and moderate disorders, medications may be effective treatment. Severe conditions may require surgery.