Dr Fazal outlines the common causes of shortness of breath, when you should see a doctor and seek specialist assessment as well as possible tests for breathlessness related to heart problems.
Dr Fazal is a Consultant Cardiologist at King’s Mill Hospital and Newark Hospital where he is the clinical lead for heart failure services. He sees patients privately at the Spire Hospital Nottingham, BMI The Park Hospital, and the Nottingham Road Clinic.
What is breathlessness?
Breathlessness or shortness of breath is difficulty in breathing. The medical term is dyspnoea. Breathlessness can occur suddenly or come on gradually over a few weeks or months. Those experiencing it might feel “puffed” or unable to do things without stopping - such as climbing stairs or walking uphill. Some people describe rapid breathing, tightness in the chest, or tiredness, with the most common description being that patients are unable to keep up with others when walking, or need to slow down/stop moving.
What are the possible causes of breathlessness?
There are numerous causes of breathlessness, the majority of which are related to either underlying heart or lung abnormalities. Breathlessness that occurs suddenly needs urgent investigation and treatment due to the serious nature of potential underlying conditions such as heart attacks, blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism) or pneumonia. Conditions that cause breathlessness over weeks/months include:
Heart failure - due to poor heart pump function.
Angina: Poor blood supply to the coronary arteries can cause chest pain/tightness/breathlessness.
Cardiomyopathy: Inherited causes of heart failure.
Heart rhythm abnormalities, particularly irregular heart beat such as AF (atrial fibrillation).
Heart valve disease such as narrowed or leaking valves e.g. aortic stenosis, mitral regurgitation.
Asthma - particularly if it is poorly controlled.
COPD (emphysema/bronchitis) usually due to smoking.
Being overweight or physically unfit.
Should I see a Cardiologist?
Increasing age, being overweight, or physically unfit can cause breathlessness. It is important to seek medical attention if you are more short of breath than usual or your symptoms are getting worse. Severe/acute symptoms should prompt you to call an ambulance. Dr Fazal is an expert in the diagnosis, investigation and treatment of breathlessness from underlying heart conditions. If the breathlessness is related to a lung condition, Dr Fazal can refer you to a lung specialist after initial tests. Dr Fazal is also able to fine tune your treatment and improve your symptoms if you have already been diagnosed with a heart condition.
What tests might be needed to investigate things further?
The tests that might be recommended depend on the suspected cause of breathlessness. These can include: ECG, chest X-ray, breathing tests, heart scans (echocardiogram), treadmill test, heart rhythm monitors, cardiac CT, cardiac MRI, or angiograms. Treatment will depend on the underlying diagnosis.
Dr Fazal is able to perform all these tests at his clinic where he also sees patients with the full range of cardiology problems such as breathlessness, angina, chest pain, palpitations, blackouts, heart rhythm disorders, atrial fibrillation, heart valve disorders, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inherited causes of sudden cardiac death.
In addition to recommending specific drug treatment, he is able to perform procedures such as angiograms, pacemakers, device therapy for heart failure (ICD, CRT-D, CRT-P), loop recorders, and echocardiograms.
Top mage: © Ulia Koltyrina - stock.adobe.com | Right image: © Denis Rozhnovsky - stock.adobe.com
His private clinic locations are as follows:
Spire Nottingham Hospital
Clinic times: Mondays 14.00-19:00, Wednesdays 18:00-20:00, Thursdays 17:30-19:30, Saturdays 09:00-12:00
BMI The Park Hospital
Sherwood Burntstump Country Park
Clinic times: Fridays 15.00-18.00, Saturdays 10.00-13.00
Nottingham Road Clinic
195 Nottingham Road
Mansfield NG18 4AA
Clinic times: By appointment