Read below about shortness of breath on exertion, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your shortness of breath on exertion from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Shortness of breath when doing simple task
Dyspnea on exertion

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9 Potential Shortness of Breath on Exertion Causes

  1. 1.Bronchitis

    Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the airways that carry air to your lungs. It causes a cough that often brings up mucus, as well as shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. It is typically caused by a virus.

    Symptoms resolve within 1-2 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    cough, productive cough, sore throat, wheezing, coughing up green or yellow phlegm
    Symptoms that always occur with bronchitis:
    cough
    Symptoms that never occur with bronchitis:
    nausea or vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Copd)

    COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a chronic condition of the lungs and the airways in the lungs. Damage has occured due to long-term exposure to substances that irritate and damage the lungs, such as cigarette smoke or air pollution. This damage can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance and cough. A common cold or other types of infection can cause symptoms to worden acutely, this is called an exacerbation.

    Often a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough and dyspnea related to smoking, cough, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd):
    cough and dyspnea related to smoking
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd):
    rectal bleeding
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Right Heart Failure (Cor Pulmonale)

    Cor pulmonale is known as right heart failure and is often a long-term consequence of high blood pressure or COPD.

    Treatment depends on severity of illness.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath on exertion, wheezing, decreased exercise tolerance
    Symptoms that never occur with right heart failure (cor pulmonale):
    severe chest pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  4. 4.Aortic Valve Regurgitation

    Aortic valve regurgitation is a condition that occurs when your heart's aortic valve doesn't close tightly. This allows some of the blood that was just pumped out of the lower left chamber (left ventricle) to leak back into it.

    Can be severely acute or chronic.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, racing heart beat, shortness of breath on exertion, shortness of breath when lying down, brief fainting episode
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Shortness of Breath on Exertion Checker

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  5. 5.Congestive Heart Failure

    Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a form of heart failure that causes fluid to back up into the lungs and other tissue. Symptoms include trouble breathing and edema (swelling of ankles, hands)

    This is a lifelong condition but symptoms can be managed.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, cough at night, shortness of breath on exertion
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

    Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease in which the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes abnormally thick (hypertrophied). This happens sometimes as a result of long-term elevated blood pressure, and sometimes without any particular reason. The thickened heart muscle can make it harder for the heart to pump blood.

    Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a life-long condition, as the heart walls are permanently enlarged.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, racing heart beat, shortness of breath on exertion
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Narrowing of the Aortic Valve

    The aorta is the main artery that carries blood out of the heart to the rest of the body. Blood flows out of the heart and into the aorta through the aortic valve. In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve does not open fully, which decreases blood flow from the heart.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, shortness of breath on exertion, decreased exercise tolerance
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  8. 8.Low Blood Cell Counts Due to a Chronic Disease

    Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells, which are cells that provide oxygen to body tissues. Anemia of chronic disease is anemia that is found in people who already have certain long-term (chronic) medical conditions.

    Long-term condition with a variable course, highly dependent on the underlying cause.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, shortness of breath on exertion, decreased exercise tolerance, dizziness when standing up, pale skin all over
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Atrial Fibrillation

    An arrhythmia is a problem with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat. The atria comprise two out of the four chambers of the heart. When their beat is disturbed, symptoms such as a racing heart, chest pain, breathlessness, and dizziness may occur.

    More than 1/2 of people with short term atrial fibrillation get their normal heart rhythm back in less than 2 days without any treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, racing heart beat, shortness of breath on exertion
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Shortness of Breath on Exertion

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Do you currently smoke?
  • Q.Do you notice your heart beating hard, rapidly, or irregularly (also called palpitations)?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our shortness of breath on exertion symptom checker to find out more.

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Shortness of Breath on Exertion Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced shortness of breath on exertion have also experienced:

    • 8% Fatigue
    • 6% Rib Pain on One Side
    • 5% Tight, Heavy, Squeezing Chest Pain
  • People who have experienced shortness of breath on exertion had symptoms persist for:

    • 36% Less Than a Day
    • 24% Over a Month
    • 21% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced shortness of breath on exertion were most often matched with:

    • 14% Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Copd)
    • 6% Bronchitis
    • 3% Right Heart Failure (Cor Pulmonale)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

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