While dyspnea following physical exertion generally resolves quickly, chronic shortness of breath may indicate a serious underlying medical problem, according to WebMD. Generally, everyone occasionally experiences dyspnea, which is the medical term for shortness of breath.
A number of acute and chronic conditions can cause breathlessness. The most common causes of chronic dyspnea include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia gravis, lung cancer, tuberculosis, pulmonary fibrosis and obesity, according to Mayo Clinic. Sudden breathlessnes is most often caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, low blood pressure, pneumonia, embolism in the lungs, inhalation of a foreign object, a collapsed lung and heart attack, according to Mayo Clinic. Additionally, WebMD indicates that people who are out of shape are more prone to dyspnea than those who are in optimal physical condition.
According to the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, chronic dyspnea is one of the first signs of congestive heart failure. When one or more chambers of the heart fail to move blood as they should, blood vessels can enlarge, causing fluid to accumulate in the lungs. Other cardiac conditions known to cause shortness of breath include cardiomyopathy, pericarditis and cardiac arrythmia. Those who experience unexplained or worsening shortness of breath should consult a medical professional as soon as possible.