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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The dypsnea lexicon

Shortness of breath:  Synonym:  Dyspnea.  The feeling or sense that you cannot catch your breath.

Dysnea:  The medical term for shortness of breath.

Oxygen Dyspnea:  Synonym:  Winded.  When your respiratory rate and heart rate increase because you're taxing your heart, examples include dyspnea due to exertions (exercise, aerobics, etc) and cardiac disease (CHF).  With lung diseases such as heart failure or lung cancer your dyspnea tolerance may decrease, and with exercise it may increase.

Exertional Dyspnea:  This is oxygen dyspnea due to exertion.  It occurs when you tax your heart due to exertion, such as what occurs with vigorous running. For a healthy person, the more you exert yourself the greater your dyspnea tolerance becomes.

Dyspnea tolerance:  Your ability to know when you are dyspneic (short of breath)

Dyspnea intolerance:  When a person cannot tell when he is short of breath.  This may occur with lung disease when a person is chronically short of breath.  This is especially true when the shortness of breath occurs slowly over time due to slow onset of lung disease, such as severe asthma or chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis).  In this case you could be short of breath and not know it.  I think this is a serious issue because these people cannot decide for themselves if they need help.

Obstructive Dyspnea:  This is dyspnea due to obstructed air passages in your lungs.  You can get air in but the air gets trapped and the lungs become overdistended.  Generally, heart rate and respiratory rate are normal unless the exacerbation becomes prolonged and severe and oxygen dyspnea results.  Examples include asthma, COPD, croup.

Mucus Dyspnea:  This is obstructive dyspnea that results from excessive mucus production.  It often causes an agonizing itching and burning feeling in the chest and sometimes results in a chin and neck itch.  A good example of this is when a person who is chronically dependent on theophylline to treat bronchospasm suddenly stops taking it.

Asthma:  This is an ancient Greek term for short, gasping breaths.  It used to be a  synonym for any cause of shortness of breath, and since Ancient Greek times the definition has evolved to refer to reversible obstructive airway disease caused by smooth muscle spasms that result from an abnormal immune response to asthma triggers.  It is now believed asthma comes with chronic inflammation of the air passages that causes these airways to be hyperresponsive to asthma triggers.

Asthma triggers:  These are things that are in the air we breathe that generally do not bother people without asthma.  Examples include animal dander, dust, air pollution, cockroach urine, mold, etc.


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