Dr Simon Kennon MB ChB, FRCP, MD Consultant Cardiologist


It is normal to get out of breath when you exert yourself, but if you become short of breath during relatively little exertion or at rest, this is likely to reflect a medical problem. The medical name for breathlessness is dyspnoea.

Problems with the heart or the lungs are the main causes of breathlessness. Being overweight and/or unfit often exacerbates these conditions.

Common heart problems

causing breathlessness are heart valve malfunction, coronary artery disease, impaired contractility of the heart muscle (“heart failure” or cardiomyopathy).

Common lung problems

causing breathlessness are asthma, emphysema and chest infections.


that breathless patients often require are: an ECG, a chest x-ray, an echocardiogram (ultrasound scan of the heart) and blood tests.