Shortness of Breath | Causes & Risk Factors


What could be causing my shortness of breath?

Shortness of breath can be caused by many things, including the following:

  • Asthma
  • Other lung diseases, including emphysema (say: "em-fa-see-ma"), which is a lung disease that is most often caused by smoking
  • Heart failure
  • Panic attacks

If you are short of breath with a cough and/or fever, you may have a chest infection or pneumonia (say: "new-moan-yuh"). Less common causes of breathing problems are lung cancer, a blood clot in the lungs, air leakage around the lungs and scarring of the lung tissue.


Evaluation of Chronic Dyspnea by NG Karnani, GM Reisfield, GR Wilson (American Family Physician April 15, 2005,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 04/05