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Multidisciplinary Team Approach to Breathlessness Treatment in Dubai

Breathlessness, also known as dyspnea, is an unpleasant feeling whereby one experiences shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. The condition may occur suddenly (acute) or gradually over a period of time (chronic).

Breathlessness results from the body receiving less oxygen than it requires. This makes an individual to automatically try to breathe more quickly to try to get more oxygen-rich air into the lungs.

Causes of Breathlessness

Common causes of breathlessness include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): This is a condition whereby the airways become inflamed and narrowed which may result in breathlessness and coughing
  • COVID-19: May cause breathlessness that may develop after a few days.
  • Asthma: This is a pulmonary condition that make the patient sound wheezy and breathless. It is often triggered by a viral infection or allergy.
  • Pneumonia: This is a severe chest infection that makes the patient feel more breathless. It is characterized by a feeling of illness, fever, and a cough.
  • Heart disease: For instance, cardiac failure, where the heart is unable to pump blood adequately. Blood arteries feeding into the heart experience an increase in pressure because the heart fails to pump effectively.
  • Anxiety: Can result in breathlessness, feeling of fear, palpitations, and perspiration.

Long-term (chronic) causes of breathlessness

  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Heart failure
  • Heart rhythm problems such as irregular heartbeat which may result in insufficient blood getting pumped around the body.
  • Anemia which is normally characterized by insufficient hemoglobin to carry oxygen to the cells.

Treatment for Breathlessness

The underlying cause of breathlessness will determine the treatment option recommended. If the patient smokes, he/she will be urged to stop. In the case of being overweight, a weight loss program is recommended.

The patient will be referred to a cardiologist or to a respiratory specialist or pulmonologist for further tests. This will be determined by the most likely underlying cause. The patient’s GP will handle the majority of cases. However, the patient might be sent to a hospital for additional testing and care.

How to Cope with Chronic Breathlessness

Specialists recommend the following breathing control techniques that can help reduce breathlessness:

  • Controlled breathing: Instead of breathing with your upper chest and shoulder muscles, use your diaphragm and lower chest muscles. Keep your shoulders and upper chest muscles relaxed while taking gentle breaths.
  • Paced breathing: Here the individual is requested to breathe in rhythm with his/her steps. This is especially important when climbing stairs.
  • Relaxed, slow, deep breathing: Slowly inhale through your nose, then gently exhale through your mouth and nose. Maintain a calm and relaxed attitude.
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