Dyspnea – Unexplained Shortness of Breath in Women

Dyspnea, or unexplained shortness of breath, is a symptom that can be caused by many different conditions. A feeling of shortness of breath is normal with heavy exercise. However, many women and men may experience a sense of shortness of breath with everyday activities. Some of the conditions that can cause dyspnea are asthma, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and bronchitis, among others. Occasionally, in some women, the cause of dyspnea is difficult to diagnose, and remains untreated.

Some studies have found that women have a harder time controlling their dyspnea than men, and also report that dyspnea has a greater negative impact on their quality of life than men. Recognizing this, the Women’s Lung Health program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital links women with dyspnea to additional support services and provides resources to help women manage their dyspnea. Barbara Cockrill, MD, Aaron Waxman, MD and David Systrom, MD are some of the clinicians who diagnose the cause in women with chronic dyspnea, and provide referrals so that patient can receive the appropriate treatment.

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