​Breathing Difficulty


There can’t be any sensation more frightening than not being able to get enough air. Although shortness of breath — medically known as dyspnea — is likely to be experienced differently by different people, it's often described as an intense tightening in the chest or feeling of suffocation. Depending on the cause, you may experience shortness of breath just once or have recurring episodes that could become constant.

Various activities such as very exhausting exercise, extreme temperatures, massive obesity and high altitude - all can cause shortness of breath in a healthy person. Outside of these examples, shortness of breath is likely a sign of a medical problem. If you have unexplained shortness of breath, especially if it comes on suddenly and is severe, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Breathing difficulty may be indicated by:

  • Irregular intake of air, especially while laying down

  • Suffocation or drowning feeling

  • Gasping for breath

  • Anxiety and/or restlessness

  • Coughing out blood

  • Having severe shortness of breath while exerting in physical activity

  • Wheezing

  • Awakening at night with a breathless feeling that may be relieved by sitting up.

  • Swelling in your lower extremities.

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath, especially if it comes on suddenly

  • Trouble breathing or a feeling of suffocating (dyspnea)

  • Making a wheezing or gasping sound while breathing

  • Coughing out blood

  • Difficulty in breathing along with sweating profusely

  • A blue or grey tone to your skin

  • A drop in blood pressure along with light-headedness, dizziness, weakness or sweating

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand.

Doctors and specialists at The Aga Khan University Hospital can help you in improving your health and well-being. The Eye and ENT service line is the specialty that deals with these problems. Our medical centre doctors diagnose and treat a wide range of respiratory disorders. This broad scope of services combined with our high standards ensures that you’ll receive world class care that’s possible with various respiratory tests conducted such as:

  • Chest X-ray: A chest X-ray will likely be the first test you have done to confirm the diagnosis of a breathing problem.

  • Pulse oximetry: A small sensor attached to your finger or ear using light determines how much oxygen is present in your body.

  • Blood tests: A standard blood test can be used to determine the level of oxygen present in your body. The blood test can be specifically carried out to test for B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) which would help determine if the breathing difficulty is caused because of a heart condition.

  • Pulmonary artery catheterization: If other tests don't reveal the reason for your condition, your doctor may suggest a procedure to measure the pressure in your lung capillaries (wedge pressure).
The doctor would insert a small balloon tipped catheter through a vein in your leg or arm and guide it to pulmonary artery. The balloon is inflated and deflated giving pressure reading.

You can breathe easier knowing that our Eye and ENT service line doctors have achieved international recognition for patient care and research. 

Once you start your treatment, at The Aga Khan University Hospital our Eye and ENT specialists will treat you with utmost commitment. The following can be your treatment options as per your doctor’s directives:

For milder cases of breathing problem, your doctor may recommend only lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or to quit smoking.

In case of nasal allergies, your doctor will treat you for your allergies. Other treatments may include: 

EPAP (Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure): These are small single use devices placed over the nostrils, which work by acting as a valve and make the air flow freely in and while exhaling the air passes through small holes on the valves causing an increase in pressure and to keep it open.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.