Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)


Shortness of breath, called dyspnea, is normal if you’re exerting yourself in a vigorous activity or if you’re in an environment with high altitudes or extreme temperatures. But if you experience difficult or labored breathing in other situations, you could have a medical condition involving your heart.

With heart failure, for example, your heart does not fill and empty to full capacity. This puts a strain on your lungs and can cause shortness of breath. Damage to the heart muscle could be caused by a heart attack or other conditions.

Symptoms that could signal heart failure include:

  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Needing to prop up the head of the bed with pillows so you can breathe
  • Being kept awake at night with shortness of breath or coughing
  • Swollen ankles or legs
  • Shortness of breath or unusual fatigue during an activity
  • Fluid weight gain

If you experience any abnormal shortness of breath, especially if it’s sudden and severe, call your doctor. Our Mercy vascular specialists will give you quick attention. We offer cutting-edge techniques and treatment options for managing your heart condition. Our heart care team will work together with you to get breathing easier again.

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