Laboured Breathing

Alternative names:

airway obstruction; breathlessness; difficulty breathing; dyspnea; shortness of breath; trouble breathing; winded


A sensation of uncomfortable, difficult or labored breathing. See also difficulty breathing - first aid; breathing difficulty lying down; abnormal breathing sounds.


Shortness of breath is normal with strenuous activity, excitement, or clogged nasal passages and is not a cause for concern. However, unexplained shortness of breath can be a sign of a significant lack of oxygen and should be taken seriously.

Wheezing is one form of breathing difficulty. Also see rapid breathingapnea, respiratory diseases, lung disease, and other lung disorders.

Common causes:

  • hyperventilation (often accompanied by mental depression or anxiety and a tingling sensation in the fingers)
  • obesity
  • rapid ascent to high altitudes
  • airway obstruction
  • cigarette smoking
  • inhalation of a foreign object
  • dust-laden environment
  • medications (such as amphetamines)
  • asthma
  • emphysema
  • lung disease
  • allergies (such as mold, dander, pollen)
  • anaphylaxis (extreme allergic reaction)
  • congestive heart failure (CHF)
  • pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

Note: There may be other reasons for labored breathing. This list is not all inclusive, and the causes are not presented in order of likelihood. The causes of this symptom can include unlikely diseases and medications.

Furthermore, the reasons for difficult or labored breathing may vary based on age and gender as well as on the specific characteristics of the symptom such as location, quality, time course, aggravating factors, relieving factors, and associated complaints.

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