Dyspnoea is a common symptom of many cardiac and respiratory conditions. Worsening dyspnoea on exertion is often present in the early stages of a disease and should always be thoroughly investigated.
- Dyspnoea is a common complaint, most frequently caused by respiratory or cardiac disease.
- Multifactorial conditions are frequent; consider the presence of aggravating factors such as obesity, deconditioning, anaemia and anxiety.
- Underlying diseases may be serious and irreversible.
- The physiology of dyspnoea is complex, but its consideration often helps to clarify the cause of symptoms.
- A careful history and examination in combination with simple investigations will often lead to a diagnosis.
- Referral for specialist review and complex testing is needed in those in whom the cause is unclear.
- The treatment of dyspnoea is often limited to management of its underlying cause, making accurate diagnosis the key to improving patient outcomes.